Palestinian photographer and curator Fidaa Kiwan (via Facebook)

The United Arab Emirates has sentenced a Palestinian photographer and curator to death on charges of drug possession. Fidaa Kiwan, a 42-year-old resident of the city of Haifa in northern Israel, maintains her innocence, saying she was framed.

Kiwan has been detained in a Dubai prison since last March after an Emirati police search found half a kilogram of cocaine in her possession. The artist, who was in Dubai for work, denied trafficking drugs and claimed that the cocaine was planted in her apartment. After a year in prison, she was handed a death sentence on March 30 for the alleged crime.

“We, the family and friends of Fidaa Kiwan, were stunned twice this week,” Kiwan’s family wrote in a statement on April 6.

“Once when we learned of the death sentence issued against Fida, and secondly when we saw and read the incorrect information that was unfairly spread, without investigating the accuracy or truth, or even listening to the family’s story.”

The family added that their daughter fell victim to “her own kindness and blind trust in people who implicated her in a case to which she had no connection.” A member of the family also claimed that Kiwan’s confession was obtained by means of torture.

Kiwan’s family called on top Israeli officials (the artist is a Palestinian citizen of Israel) and Amnesty International to intervene in the case and push to dismiss the conviction.

Kiwan, who owns a photography studio in Haifa, is a known figure in the local art community. Over the years, she has organized dozens of art exhibitions and cultural events in the city, which is considered a hub of Palestinian art. Kiwan is also known as an outspoken political activist.

On social media, local artists and arts organizations have posted messages of support for Kiwan, using the hashtag #FreeFidaaKiwan.

“I know Fidaa, she is a great Palestinian photographer and an artist, she is a beautiful and resilient human and a support system to anyone that ever met her,” wrote Ahmad Nasser Eldin, one of Kiwan’s friends, in a Facebook post.

“One thing for sure, she is not a drug dealer,” Nasser Eldin continued. “Needless to say, no one deserves the death penalty even if they find cocaine on them … what a mad world … the insanity of all of this.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...