Putin, Netanyahu Discuss Possibility of Pardoning Israeli Jailed in Russia on Drug Charges

Israeli officials have called on Moscow to ease Naama Issachar's seven-and-a-half-year jail sentence

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Naama Issachar, who has been detained in Russia since April 2019
Naama Issachar, who has been detained in Russia since April 2019 Credit: Courtesy of the family

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed Monday the possibility of Russia pardoning an Israeli-American woman jailed on drug charges, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said.

The two leaders spoke on the phone on the occasion of Netanyahu’s 70th birthday. Netanyahu's office confirmed the details of the talk, adding that they also discussed the situation in Syria.

Naama Issachar was sentenced on October 11 to seven and a half years in jail after being convicted of smuggling 9.6 grams of hashish into Russia. Israeli officials have appealed to Moscow to ease her sentence, which they said was disproportionate.

In early October, Israeli sources said that Moscow had pressured Israel to release Aleksey Burkov, a Russian hacker who is to be extradited to the U.S., in exchange for the release of Issachar. IT specialist Burkov was arrested in Israel in 2015 for extradition to the United States on charges related to widespread credit card fraud.

Issachar was arrested in April while on a stopover at a Moscow airport, en route from India to Israel. She was detained in Khimki prison, outside Moscow, with authorities refusing multiple attempts by her family to pay for her bail.

Also on Monday, Issachar's attorneys filed an appeal, arguing the legal process in her case was unfair. Defense lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant told Haaretz the charges are "wrong" since Issachar was not engaged in smuggling, as the court ruled.

Last week, Issachar's mother Yaffa visited her in jail for the first time since she was convicted.

After the visit she said that she heard reports that Putin would consider pardoning her daughter, but that the family was trying not to hang on to hope.

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu talk during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, September 12, 2019.Credit: Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP

"A hard day, but I saw her and that's most important," said the mother. She added that she brought her daughter Israeli newspapers so she could see the nationwide interest and buzz that her case has stirred. She said that "[previously] Naama was unable to see newspapers, and this amazed her."

Yaffa Issachar added that up until now, the family's concerns had only revolved around the investigation and the trial, and suddenly they "have to worry about prison. The question now is how long will it [the attempts to have her released] take and if it might be better to proceed with the appeal process."

Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin officially appealed to Putin to consider the unique circumstances of the case and pardon Issachar.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can