Young Israeli Woman Held in Russia Files Pardon Request to Putin

Move comes after Naama Issachar's mother met Putin in Israel on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Yaffa Issachar, mother of Israeli citizen Naama Issachar who is jailed in Russia, during their meeting in Tel-Aviv, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.
Aleksey Nikolskyi,AP

Naama Issachar, the 26-year-old American-Israeli imprisoned in Russia on a drug conviction, has submitted a pardon request to Russian President Vladimir Putin, her lawyers said on Sunday.

On Saturday, a Kremlin spokesman said her release had been delayed because she had yet to submit such a request.

After submitting the request, Issachar's lawyers released a statement expressing their hope that the Russian president "will quickly, in accordance with his constitutional authority, decide to grant her a pardon and release her."

Alexei Kovalenko, a member of Issachar’s legal team, told Haaretz that pardons are rarely granted in Russia. “To date, the Russian president has never granted a pardon to a foreign national,” he said.

“Still, the whole process so far has been extremely unusual, so anything could happen,” he added.

Issachar's family said they do not know how the pardon procedure works exactly, adding they hope everything will be over soon.

Issachar was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for drug smuggling, after 9.6 grams of hashish were found in her knapsack during a layover at a Moscow airport on her way home from India.

On Sunday, Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, spoke to Haaretz as she was departing for Moscow. "I hope I will return with her, I hope this will be the last trip to Moscow," she said. She added that authorities failed to transfer her to a different prison as they had planned, suggesting it could be a sign that something positive could happen. 

Yaffa Issachar met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, during his visit to Israel for the commemoration of the 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. During a brief joint press conference after the meeting, Putin said he would take Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position on the matter into account and that “everything will be okay.”  Netanyahu said “significant progress” had been made in the negotiations for her release.