Israeli Justice Minister Signs Extradition Order of Russian Hacker to U.S.

Israeli officials anticipate Russia will not be pleased with decision to extradite Aleksey Burkov, for which Moscow offered to release an Israeli sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for minor drug charges

The Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov in March, 2016.
Courtesy of Channel 13 News

Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed the order Wednesday to extradite Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov, who is currently being held in Israel, to the United States, where he is wanted for suspected cybercrimes.

Israeli officials said they anticipate that Russia will not be pleased with the decision to extradite Burkov, but believed there was no other option under the given circumstances, as the Supreme Court had already approved the extradition.

The Russian Embassy in Israel said it has yet to receive an official notice from Israeli authorities, and added it does not comment on announcements in the media.

Michael Eroni, the public defender representing Burkov, said "We will consider our position" after going over the extradition order.

Moscow previously offered to release an Israeli woman recently sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for minor drug charges in exchange for Burkov, a deal which Israel refused.

Naama Issachar, 25, was arrested in April while on a stopover at a Moscow airport, en route from India to Israel. She was detained in Khimki prison, outside Moscow, with authorities refusing multiple attempts by her family to pay for her bail.

Ohana said that the Israeli government is taking unprecedented action in other cases of Israelis imprisoned in other countries, "and we hope these efforts will come to fruition." But he added that tying Issachar's fate to Burkov's could have consequences.

"I wouldn't make this connection between [Issachar] and Burkov, because if we make this connection, it would put every Israeli in the world at risk," Ohana said, creating a scenario in which a country that wants a prisoner in Israel brought home could lock up a traveling Israeli. 

Issachar's family lamented Ohana's decision, calling it "immoral" and adding it "resigned Naama to her fate," and that they intend to file a petition with the High Court against it.

In early October, Israeli sources said that Moscow had pressured Israel to release Burkov in exchange for the release of Issachar. IT specialist Burkov was arrested in Israel in 2015 for extradition to the United States on charges related to widespread credit card fraud.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of Russia pardoning Issachar, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said.