Russia Seeking to Jail Israeli Woman for Up to 8 Years After She Was Found Carrying Hashish

Naama Issachar, 25, was charged last month with drug smuggling and has been detained for the past six months

Naama Issachar, 25, has been detained in Russia since April 2019, and faces up to ten years in jail

Russian prosecutors are seeking to jail an Israeli woman for up to eight years after 9.6 grams of hashish were found to be in her possession while she traveled through the Moscow airport in April. 

The arguments in the trial of Naama Issachar, 25, ended on Wednesday and according to her lawyer the verdict will be announced over the weekend. She was charged last month with drug smuggling, a crime that in Russia is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She is being detained in Khimki, outside Moscow.

According to the indictment, Issachar was traveling from India to Israel and had stopped en route in Moscow, where a police dog indicated that there were drugs in her checked knapsack on the baggage carousel. 

Passengers walk past a departure board at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 8, 2019.
Pavel Golovkin,AP

When police searched the knapsack they found the hashish in her toiletry bag. In her testimony to the court last week, Issachar said she was waiting for her connecting flight and didn’t try to put the knapsack through customs. Despite this, the prosecutors said that since the drug in her knapsack had crossed Russia’s air border, the allegation is smuggling. 

Yaffa, Issachar’s mother, told Haaretz after the hearing that “Naama said she’s not admitting to smuggling. She admits that she made a mistake, that she didn’t know Russian law, she admits that it [the hashish] was found in her bag and that she hadn’t examined the bag. She said, ‘Your honor, I admit it was found on me, I’m sitting here for six months for something I was carrying but I’m not admitting to smuggling; I wasn’t trying to enter Russia. I was waiting in transit all those hours, I planned to get on the plane; I showed my ticket and then a policeman arrested me.’

She spoke nicely and respectfully.” The mother added:  “I’m begging for help before she gets a verdict. The state has to help Naama.”

Issachar’s relatives, who are in Moscow, have offered during every hearing to pay bail and get her released to alternative detention, but to no avail. Last week Issachar celebrated her birthday in jail. “She tells me, ‘Enough already, I don’t see any end to this. Another hearing and another hearing,’” her mother said. “She told me to stop telling her that people are trying to help her. I’m just scared she’s going to be sent into prison.”

Issachar’s lawyer, Alexander Tayus, said: “I believe that they must acquit Naama who is accused of smuggling and give her a punishment for drug possession, which is in the framework of the six months she has already sat in jail. If the court finds Naama guilty of smuggling, it would create a dangerous precedent.”

Israel's Foreign Ministry stated that “from the moment Naama Issachar’s arrest at the airport in Moscow became known, the Israeli Consulate in Moscow and the department for Israelis abroad have been in touch with Naama and her family and are providing consular-humanitarian services, as is customary with regard to detainees and prisoners under the Vienna Convention.”

The ministry added that in principle, “a state is blocked from intervening in the investigations and legal processes against its citizens in a foreign country. In this case some exceptional moves were made and senior figures in Russia were approached, including the Russian deputy foreign minister. The Russians made it clear that this was a criminal violation that requires a legal proceeding in accordance with Russian law.”