On Friday morning, Naama Issachar, 25, an Israeli-American tourist, was convicted of smuggling 9.6 grams of Charas (Indian and Jamaican hashish, made from the resin of the cannabis plant) and sentenced by a Russian court to seven and a half years in prison.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally acted on behalf of Issachar in recent weeks, the PM’s media advisor reported Friday evening.
The Prime Minister discussed this issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his September 12 visit to Sochi, and raised the issue again in their telephone conversation earlier last week.
Israel has been clear in its view that the punishment which was demanded by the Russian prosecutor was disproportionate and did not fit the nature of Issachar’s offense.
Netanyahu is requesting a commuting of the sentence and an easing of the terms of Naama’s detention. The Russian prosecution has yet to respond to these requests.
Issachar was arrested last April in Moscow airport (a police dog sniffed her bag) and has been kept in jail since. According to several media outlets, the grotesque—possibly illegal—sentence, has nothing to do with the Israeli traveler, who appears to have stepped into the wrong place at the wrong time. What Russia wants is the release of one Aleksey Burkov, an “IT freelancer” (a.k.a. “hacker”) from St. Petersburg, who was arrested back in 2015 in Israel on suspicion of serious cyber crimes, including theft of millions of dollars from credit cards and accounts belonging to American citizens.
The US has requested Burkov’s extradition, while Russia wants his release.
The Russian propaganda website RT reported on Thursday that Burkov’s family have suggested that the Russian Foreign Ministry negotiate a prisoner swap between Russia and Israel: “They have said that Burkov could be swapped for Naama Issachar.”
But the Judicial authorities in Israel have made it unequivocally clear that there is no possibility of preventing the extradition of Burkov to the US, following an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that he is subject to extradition.
But, surely, Netanyahu who swapped more than 1,000 Arab terrorists for one Israeli boychick would find it in his heart to let one hacker go in exchange for an innocent Israeli woman.
After the Sochi meeting, Netanyahu phoned Naama’s mother and updated her on the discussion. According to the PM’s press release, he and the State of Israel will continue to make every effort with the Russian authorities in order to bring about Naama Issachar’s release and return her to her family.
Prime Minister Netanyahu “deeply appreciates President Putin’s willingness to devote time to the issue and hopes that effort will bear fruit.”
Perhaps President Trump could be brought in on this matter?