Family of Israeli Jailed in Russia Drops Petition Against Hacker's Extradition

After speaking to 'government officials' involved in handling Naama Issachar's case, family says 'Naama shouldn’t be a tool in the hands of a Russian hacker and his people'

A demonstration Held in Tel Aviv to release 25-year-old Naama Issachar, who is jailed in Russia on drug charges, October 2019.
Meged Gozani

The family of Naama Issachar, an Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, has withdrawn its petition to the High Court of Justice against the extradition of a Russian hacker to the United States after speaking to "government officials" handling her case.

The Isaachars were interested in trading hacker Aleksey Burkov, who is wanted by the U.S. for suspected cybercrimes, for their 25-year-old daughter, who is serving a seven-and-a-half year prison term for possession of 9.6 grams of hashish while changing planes at a Russian airport.

On October 30, Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed the order to extradite him. Last week the Issachars petitioned the court to prevent the extradition in the hope that Burkov could be swapped for their daughter, since Russia had also sought his extradition and had indicated that such a swap was possible.

But on Tuesday, the family’s attorneys withdrew the petition, citing “developments in discussions between Issachar’s family and government officials involved in handling her case.”

During these discussions, the officials made clear “that the State of Israel and its government are deeply committed to do their best to return the petitioner [Issachar] to Israel,” the request said.

The family has concluded that withdrawing its petition would facilitate these efforts, because once Burkov is extradited to America, Russia will no longer have anything to gain by holding Issachar, which would allow the Israeli government to focus on exploring other channels to win Issachar's release, such as the pardon requests Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin have submitted or filing an appeal through the Russian courts.

Government officials had told Haaretz previously that they were pinning great hopes on the pardon requests, especially given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to visit in January.

Officials have told the family that Israel has taken steps in Issachar’s case “that aren’t usually taken in other cases in which Israeli citizens are put on trial in foreign countries, because of the uniqueness of the case and its extreme circumstances,” the request filed to the court says.

Yaffa Issachar, Naama’s mother, said she decided to withdraw the petition only “after agonizing over the matter.”

“Naama shouldn’t be a tool in the hands of a Russian hacker and his people,” she said. “I pray that my decision won’t make Naama’s situation in her Russian prison worse, and I’m putting my full trust in the president and the prime minister that they’ll continue to work with the Russian president to bring about Naama’s immediate release.”

Issachar was sentenced by a Russian court in October of smuggling 9.6 grams of hashish into Russia. The drug was found by a sniffer dog in her luggage as it was being transferred between flights, during a stop-by in Moscow between India and Israel.

The family's original petition to the court had argued that given Russia’s decision to turn Issachar into a bargaining chip to get Burkov back, extraditing him to America “would seal her fate.” It therefore proposed two alternatives – extraditing him to Russia, as Moscow had requested, or delaying his extradition to America until Issachar is released.

The court still plans to hear Burkov’s own petition against his extradition on Thursday. This petition argues that because he is a Russian citizen whose alleged crimes were committed on Russian soil, he should be extradited to Russia, or at least sent to America only on condition that he serve any jail sentence in Russia.