TEL AVIV, Israel -- The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an Israeli woman to death for cocaine possession, in a major test of new relations between the Mideast countries.
Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed that it is working on the case of the woman, identified by her lawyer as Fida Kiwan. News reports said she is a 43-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio. She was sentenced on Monday, said attorney Tami Olman.
The Israeli news site Ynet said Kiwan was arrested on March 21, 2021, with half a kilogram (over 1 pound) of cocaine that she claimed did not belong to her. Kiwan's lawyer is appealing the sentence, which could be converted to a prison term.
The UAE’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
The UAE's harsh drug laws could test burgeoning relations between Israel and the UAE under the “Abraham Accords,” a series of diplomatic pacts between Israel and four Arab countries brokered by the Trump administration in 2020.
Normalization has turned glitzy Dubai into a freewheeling Israeli tourist destination. Israel's top leaders, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, have met with their counterparts in the Gulf state, and the UAE was part of an unprecedented meeting of Arab and Israeli foreign ministers in Israel's Negev desert late last month.
As for Kiwan, Israel's Foreign Ministry said it “is aware of the incident and is taking care of it through the division of Israelis abroad in the consular department and Israeli representations in the UAE.”
Israeli media reported that Kiwan came to Dubai for work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance a little over a year ago. She was arrested a short while later after a search of her apartment turned up the drugs.
The UAE is one of the world’s most restrictive nations when it comes to people importing and possessing drugs, including substances for personal use like cannabis and even over-the-counter medications like narcotics.
Trafficking typically carries a life sentence and possession a shorter jail sentence. While UAE law allows for the death penalty in certain cases, capital punishment is rarely carried out. The last known executions were in 2011 and 2014, against two men convicted of murder.