Herzog helps secure release of Israeli held in Dubai on drug offense

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The United Arab Emirates on Monday released an Israeli citizen arrested in Dubai for drug offenses, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

President Isaac Herzog was also personally involved in securing the man’s freedom, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said.

The man, 33, was stopped just over two weeks ago, when he arrived in Dubai from Thailand to catch a connecting flight to Israel. Authorities found 29 grams of cannabis in his luggage.

“During the entire period, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the consul in Dubai, Eloise Geffen, worked with the authorities in Dubai in order to bring about the release of the citizen and his return to Israel,” the statement said.

Cohen thanked the efforts of the Foreign Ministry personnel and the consulate in Dubai.

“Special thanks to the President of the State Isaac Herzog for his involvement in the aid efforts,” he added.

Cohen said it was another example of how his ministry “stands by Israelis abroad constantly, all year round, and around the clock.”

The man, who has not been named in Hebrew media reports, was also prohibited from returning to Dubai, according to the Ynet outlet.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, on November 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

Last week Channel 12 reported that the man has a permit to use cannabis for medical reasons, but that it is not valid in Dubai. According to media reports, the man is on the autism spectrum.

At the time, relatives told the network that they were concerned for his welfare and that he could receive a lengthy sentence.

His attorney, Nir Yaslovitzh, told Channel 12 that “every day that passes put his life in real danger,” and appealed to Herzog to act for his release.

Earlier this year, the UAE released an Israeli woman who was serving a life sentence for drug smuggling. United Arab Emirate’s President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan granted her amnesty as a personal gesture to Herzog.

Herzog had made a personal humanitarian plea to Mohamed on her behalf, Hebrew media reported.

Fidaa Kiwan was originally sentenced to death in April 2022, but the Abu Dhabi Federal Appeal Court canceled the punishment and sentenced her to life behind bars in July.

Kiwan, a 44-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio, reportedly came to Dubai for work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance. She was arrested a short while later, on March 17, 2021, after a search of her apartment turned up the drugs. She claimed that the cocaine was not hers.

The UAE is known for its strict anti-drug laws, with those convicted of drug trafficking facing a possible death sentence. However, the death sentences are not rigorously enforced in many cases and tend to be converted into heavy prison sentences.

Kiwan’s case was not the first time that the UAE has made a notable drug bust of an Israeli. In October 2021, it was reported that an Israeli man — Halil Dasuki, 31, from Lod — was arrested in Dubai on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to smuggle half a ton of cocaine into the UAE, and from there to Israel.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized ties in 2020 when they signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords, along with Bahrain. The UAE has since become a popular tourist and business destination for Israelis, and tens of thousands have visited the Emirates.

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