Israel Ignored Moscow's Plea to Extradite Russian Hacker for Over Three Years, Lawyers Say

At a hearing on Aleksey Burkov’s petition against extradition to U.S., his attorneys claim Israel mishandled Russian request for extradition

Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov detained in Israel attends a High Court hearing, Jerusalem, November 7, 2019.
Oren Ben Hakun

Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov's lawyers argued before the Supreme Court Thursday that Israel had ignored an official request from Russia for his extradition for over three years.

They presented a letter of complaint they say was sent by Russia’s deputy state prosecutor to Justice Minister Amir Ohana regarding the lack of  response to the extradition request.

The letter was dated October 14, three days after Naama Issachar, the Israeli woman who was sentenced by a Russian court last Friday to 7.5 years in jail for having smuggled 9.6 grams of hashish. She was arrested while changing planes in Russia on her way home from India.

Israel had refused a prisoner swap deal suggested by Russia, according to which Burkov would be freed in exchange for Issachar's release. 

Burkov’s lawyers, public defenders Vadim Shuv and Michael Ironi, asked the court to permit the government to negotiate with the United States and Russia on their proposal that Burkov would be tried in the U.S. but serve his sentence in Russia.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut replied that “instructing the government to negotiate is not a matter for the court.”

Attorney Udi Eitan, representing the state, said, “All inquiries received regarding Burkov’s case were handled and answered appropriately and nothing was found in them to block the hacker’s extradition to the United States.” Eitan added that since the ruling was given permitting the extradition, the circumstances have not changed and there is no cause for intervention in Minister Ohana’s decision, who signed the order to extradite Burkov to the United States.

“As soon as it was determined that the petitioner may be extradited to the United States, that the American petition is well-founded and there are no unusual considerations – there is a basis to order his extradition to the U.S.,” Eitan added.

When the hearing began, Burkov was brought into the courtroom with his legs shackled. Hayut rebuked the prison service, saying they “acted against instructions.” During the hearing, Hayut asked the state for clarification about the Russian request that supposedly went unanswered. The decision on the petition could be made next week.

This week, Issachar’s family asked the High Court to cancel the petition the family had submitted against Ohana’s decision to extradite Burkov to the United States. The decision to cancel the petition was made by Yaffa Issachar, Naama’s mother. The new request noted that “there has been a development in the communications between Issachar’s family and officials involved in handling her case.”