Israel Warns Legal Cooperation With U.S. at Risk if Russian Hacker Not Extradited

State argues against Aleksey Burkov's appeal amid Russia's reported interest in swapping an Israeli traveler jailed on drug charges for the accused man

Aleksey Burkov in Israeli custody.
Oren Ben Hakoun

In response to a petition by Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov against his pending extradition to the United States, the state has replied that the extradition is a high priority issue and that a failure to carry it out would violate a commitment and have serious consequences on Washington's willingness to cooperate with Israeli law enforcement against crime.

In its argument against Burkov's petition, a government statement said that the decision made by Justice Minister Amir Ohana to sign the extradition order followed work coordinated by the National Security Council. Many considerations were weighed relating to Israeli relations with both the U.S. and Russia.

The statement indicated that the state could provide the court with more elaborate information about Naama Issachar , the Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia on drug charges, or about other national issues, but only behind closed doors and in the presence of one side only. The state rejected a proposal by Burkov to be tried in the US but serve out his sentence in Russia.

His lawyers argued that he should be extradited to Russia since his alleged crimes were said to have been committed there, and his life is based in Russia.

Naama Issachar, Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges.

On Tuesday, the Issachar family asked the High Court of Justice to drop their petition against Burkov’s extradition. Yaffa Issachar, Naama’s mother said the decision was based on , developments in negotiations between the family and agencies dealing with her daughter’s imprisonment.

Issachar was sentenced by a Russian court last month to seven and a half years behind bars for smuggling about 10 grams of hashish found by a sniffer dog in her luggage during a stopover in Moscow on a trip between India and Israel.

Apparently, “diplomatic sources” have informed the family that Israel is working on behalf of the plaintiff in ways that are not routinely employed when other Israelis face charges in foreign countries, due to the “unique and extreme circumstances of this case.”

The family feels that once Burkov is extradited to the US and a swap deal is no longer possible, Russia will no longer be able to exert pressure on Israel to win Issachar's release. The state could then focus on freeing the young woman through other channels, such as asking for a pardon or filing an appeal.