Fida Kewan, a Haifa native who was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for drug trafficking, was pardoned by the UAE and given leave to return home, according to a Saturday night Walla! report.
Her death sentence had been commuted to life in jail, but following Israeli appeals for clemency she was pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in honor of the Ramadan holy month, Herzog said in a statement.
Kewan was en route back to Israel, Herzog's statement added, saying that her family had argued that her conviction was due to her having "fallen victim to a ruse." They did not elaborate, however.
She was arrested in Dubai in March 2022, two weeks after arriving for her work in graphic design, according to Walla! She was sentenced to death in April for possessing half a kilogram (1.1 lbs.) of cocaine. She has claimed that the drugs were not hers.In the last year, Kewan's Israeli defense attorneys as well as her mother, brother and sister have been in communication with the president's office, doubling down on her claims of innocence, Walla! reported.
Israel and the UAE established relations in 2020 as part of a US-sponsored diplomatic drive. After Kewan's arrest, Israeli officials said the lack of extradition deals in the fledgling bilateral ties made negotiating her repatriation difficult.
Israelis caught with drugs in the UAE
A number of Israelis have been caught smuggling drugs into the UAE since the Abraham Accords were signed.
In late 2021, Khalil Dasuki, a resident of Lod, was arrested in Dubai for attempting to smuggle $136 million worth of pure cocaine, with Dubai Police calling it the largest drug seizure in the region at the time.
Dubai Police announced then that they had thwarted a smuggling attempt of 1,102 pounds (500 kg.) of pure cocaine in an operation named “Scorpion.” The drugs were hidden in a cargo container.
As of February 2022, Dasuki was also facing the possibility of being sentenced to death.
Reuters contributed to this report.