Russian Panel Greenlights Jailed Israeli's Pardon Request in High-profile Case

Putin has the final say in whether or not to release Naama Issachar, sentenced to seven and a half years on drug charges

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova visits Naama Issachar in jail, January 23, 2020.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova visits Naama Issachar in jail, January 23, 2020.Credit: FSIN
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

A pardon request filed by Naama Issachar, the 26-year-old Israeli imprisoned in Russia on a drug conviction, has been accepted by a panel on Monday, and will soon go to Russian President Vladimir Putin. If accepted, it will be the first time the Russian president will pardon a foreign national. 

The panel's decision now goes to the district governor, who will determine whether to hand the pardon request over to Putin, who has the final say in Issachar's release.

A Kremlin spokesperson said that Putin will soon decide whether to pardon Issachar. The governor is set to examine the request as early as Tuesday.

Issachar was arrested and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for drug smuggling after a small amount of hashish was found in her knapsack during a layover at a Moscow airport on her way home from India.

Her particularly long sentence for a minor infraction was seen 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. 

Russia's commissioner for human rights, Tatyana Moskalkova, said Sunday that she is inclined to support Issachar's pardon request. After visiting Issachar on Thursday in jail, Moskalkova said that considering Issachar's actions harmed no one, she would help her present a request to the president for a pardon or a reduced sentence.

On Thursday, while in Israel for the International Holocaust Forum, Putin held a joint press conference alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Issachar's mother Yaffa.

Issachar's family had expressed hope that Putin would announce he will pardon their daughter and release her from prison, but he did not make such a statement, instead saying that "everything will be okay" in Naama's case.