'Highly Likely' Putin and Netanyahu Will Discuss Jailed Israeli During Jerusalem Visit, Kremlin Says

Israel seeks pardon for 26-year-old sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after hashish was found in her bag during an airport layover

Noa Landau
Bar Peleg
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Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at an event at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia, January 29, 2018.
Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at an event at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia, January 29, 2018.Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Noa Landau
Bar Peleg

It is "highly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss the possible pardoning of an Israeli woman jailed in Russia over drug charges during Putin's visit to Jerusalem this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Peskov, quoted by TASS news agency, refused to say whether Naama Issachar would be granted a presidential pardon in the high-profile case, but only stated that he expects it to be "raised during upcoming contacts with Mr. Netanyahu."

Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and power

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Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, responsible for relations with the Middle East, is expected in Israel later on Monday, where he would meet with Israeli officials.

An Israeli government official said that no deal was reached with Moscow, stressing that the pardon request is based on humanitarian grounds.

A spokeswoman for Netanyahu said the prime minister and other Israeli officials met with the Issachar family on Monday.

Naama Issachar gestures during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, December 19, 2019
Naama Issachar gestures during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ AP

Issachar, 26, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after 9.6 grams of hashish were found in her possession during a layover in the Moscow airport. Her imprisonment was seen in Israel as a bargaining chip in efforts to prevent the extradition of Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov, who was held in Israel but turned over to the United States in November. 

Issachar told a Russian court that the hashish did not belong to her and that she had not put it in her bag. She said she had told her interrogators that the drugs did not belong to her, but that they ignored her statement, which was made without a translator or lawyer present. She also said that she was pressured to sign a Russian-language document in which she only wrote where she had come from.

Burkov plans to plead guilty to some charges against him in federal court this month, thus changing his original statement, his lawyer, Greg Stambaugh, has told the TASS news agency. The IT specialist was arrested in Israel in 2015 for extradition to the United States on charges related to widespread credit card fraud. 

Putin will attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum on Thursday. 

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