Russian Hacker Jailed in Israel Calls for Swap Deal With Israeli Held in Russia for Drug Charges

Moscow has offered Israel to release Aleksey Burkov in exchange for freeing Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for illegal drug possession

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

Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov, who is under arrest in Israel, said in an interview conducted from prison that he has no ties to Russian intelligence and that Moscow is fighting for his release because "Russians never leave fellow Russians behind."

Israel had refused a prisoner swap deal suggested by Russia, according to which Burkov would be freed in exchange for the release of 25-year-old Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to 7.5 years behind bars in Russia after she was found carrying a small amount of hashish while she was traveling to Israel from India through the Moscow airport in April. 

Speaking to Israel's Channel 13 News in an interview aired Saturday evening, the Russian hacker said that "myself and Naama are being held in jail as a result of political games."

On Friday, a Russian court sentenced Naama to prison after she was held in detention for six months. "I support Issachar and her family, my family has been in the same situation for the last four years," Burkov said. "We have to be optimistic. I really hope that the swap deal will come through, it will pay off for both countries and bring myself and Issachar home," he added. "I am sure that this can be done quickly," he said.

On Monday, Issachar's attroney filed an appeal against her sentence, and a court hearing is expected later this week.

Her uncle said the family believes the appeal will be rejected, but intended to prevent the Russian authorities from transferring her to a detention camp for now.

"At least, it gives the Russians some time to think, and the [Israeli] government some more time to see how they can solve it," he added. "I really don't want her to get there, it will break her spirit. She's a strong girl... That's our luck, but enough is enough."

Also on Monday, a judge allowed Issachar's mother, Yaffa, to visit her daughter at the detention facility.

Two months ago, Israel's High Court of Justice approved the extradition of Burkov to the United States following a request from the FBI, for felonies related to computer and credit card fraud. The extradition request was accepted after the American secret service launched an investigation into online credit card fraud.

The probe revealed that Burkov led a website that was used to sell credit card data. In 2015, an indictment was filed against him in Virginia. The indictment charged that Burkov had committed four different fraud-related felonies, and a year later the accusations extended to include identity theft, computer hacking and money laundering. 

According to evidence and transcripts filed by two agents of the U.S. secret service and a senior prosecutor in the state of Virginia, Burkov offered data linked to more than 150,000 credit cards for sale.

"For months now the hacker's family has been contacting us and asking for help," Issachar's mother said last week after she was informed of the Russian suggestion to carry out a prisoner swap deal. "Now we understand that it's true. Naama is paying the price for this, it's jarring," she added.