DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced to death a woman convicted of murdering an American teacher with a butcher knife in the bathroom of an upscale Abu Dhabi mall, the state news agency WAM reported Monday.
Attacks against foreigners are rare in the UAE, which is home to the popular tourist destination of Dubai and where expatriates far outnumber Emirates citizens. Police said at the time of the attack in December that the attacker had targeted her victim based on nationality alone in an attempt to create chaos in the country. She had also planted a bomb outside another American’s house that was discovered before it detonated.
The attacker was identified as Emirates national Alaa Bader Abdullah al-Hashemi, a 30-year-old mother of six, according to the Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper. International media were not allowed inside the courtroom to cover the trial.
The murder of schoolteacher Ibolya Ryan, 47, left a trail of blood in the public restroom at the mall in the capital’s upscale Reem Island. The attacker wore the full black garment and face veil traditionally worn by local women throughout the Gulf, and appeared to have chosen her victim randomly.
Ryan, who had three children, had been living in Abu Dhabi with her 11 year-old twins and had taught at an elementary school in Colorado before moving to the UAE.
Judge Falah al-Hajri, who chaired the Federal Supreme Court case, said in remarks carried by WAM that “unfamiliar crimes in the UAE society have been emerging” with the aim of spreading terror. He defended the death sentence as “necessary to tackle such actions.”
In addition to the murder, al-Hashemi was convicted of sending money to al-Qaida in Yemen and publishing information with the intent to harm the reputation of the UAE.
The court verdict cannot be appealed, though the country’s ruler must ratify the ruling.
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.