Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Meet Mother of Israeli Jailed in Russia on Drug Charges

Netanyahu told Yaffa Issachar that he is doing everything in his power to have her daughter released from Russia, where she has been sentenced to 7.5 years behind bars

Israelis hold signs calling for the release of Israeli Naama Issachar during a demonstration In Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, October 19, 2019. 
Sebastian Scheiner,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat met Sunday for the first time with the mother of a young Israeli woman convicted of drug smuggling in Russia. 

The short meeting between Netanyahu and Yaffa Issachar, the mother of Naama Issachar, took place while the mother was already meeting with Ben Shabbat. Netanyahu entered the room during the discussion and told Issachar that he was doing everything he could to bring Naama back to Israel.

Naama Issachar and her mother Yaffa, undated
Courtesy of the family

Issachar, 25, was sentenced earlier this month to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for smuggling 9.6 grams of hashish into Russia. The drug was found by a sniffer dog in her luggage as it was being transferred between flights, during a stop-by in Moscow between India and Israel.

Israel had refused a deal proposed by Russia to free Issachar in exchange for the release of Russian hacker Alexey Burkov, who is slated to be extradited from Israel to the United States.

Netanyahu had previously spoken to Yaffa Issachar by phone and had updated her on his talks on the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He recently sent Putin an official request, in his name and that of President Reuven Rivlin, to pardon Issachar.

Yaffa Issachar flew Monday to Moscow and she will visit her daughter in jail Tuesday. After the family’s lawyers contacted the Russian court, her request for a meeting was granted, but she was told that no further visits would be permitted so long as the conversations between them are in Hebrew.

Attorney Vladimir Kluwgant, a member of Issachar’s defense team in Russia, told Haaretz that her appeal will be based on three main arguments: The lack of threat to the public by Issachar’s actions, the lack of intent and the fact that there is no precedent for a person being accused of drug smuggling under similar circumstances. He said that she had done nothing that could be construed as harming the Russian state, its society or citizens, and that charging her with drug smuggling under those circumstances was ridiculous. 

Issachar admitted that the drug belonged to her and that she had purchased it in New Delhi, but said she didn’t intend to bring it into Russia.

Liza Rozovsky contributed to this report.