Israel’s foreign minister says the long imprisonment on minor charges of an Israeli woman in Russia is related to something much bigger than her alleged crime.
By World Israel News Staff
Israeli citizen Naama Issachar is being held in a Russian prison for reasons “that are unrelated to what she did,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz in an interview on Channel 12 News on Saturday.
“She obviously fell victim to something unrelated to her,” he said. “We are working on the issue as the State of Israel.”
Issachar, 26, was sentenced on Friday to 7 1/2 years in a Russian prison after cannabis was found in her luggage.
On April 9, Issachar was waiting in Moscow’s airport on her way back to Israel from India. During the layover she was arrested for having in her possession 9 grams of marijuana. She claimed the marijuana, found in her check-on luggage, wasn’t hers and she had no idea how it got into her baggage.
In a recording released Saturday of Issachar speaking to a friend on the phone just before her arrest, she says, “Listen, apparently I’m in much bigger trouble than we hoped. I don’t understand. I don’t know. It feels like a movie.”
“I’m lost. The police are taking me,” are her last words on the recording.
Issachar has been charged as a drug smuggler and faces eight years in prison, despite the relatively small quantity of marijuana found in her luggage.
Israel’s Channel 13 suggested on Friday there’s a connection to Issachar’s arrest and the approval of a U.S. extradition request of Alexei Burkov, a Russian hacker held in Israel since 2015.
Burkov is wanted for embezzling millions using credit cards belonging to U.S. citizens.
“Formally, there is no connection between the two,” Katz said. “There is a detailed American extradition request and the Supreme Court has approved it.”
Katz also said, “Russia is acting like Russia. I am not disappointed by Putin because there is nothing to be disappointed about. We benefit greatly from the relationship with Putin.”
“We will continue to take advantage of Netanyahu’s good relationship with Putin. The good relationship has helped in many areas. And it helped in this case, too – the Prime Minister spoke to the Russian President twice.
“I am personally committed [to helping] and I intend to invite the family to a meeting so we can set a way for joint action. And we will do everything and we have to remember that the United States sought to extradite Burkov. Everyone understands that there are things in the background,” Katz said.
The issue of Issachar’s arrest has become a topic among Israeli politicians in recent days.
MK Ayelet Shaked of the New Right, said “The punishment Naama Issachar received was disproportionate to the offense. I expect the Russian judicial system to give her a fair and just hearing in the appeal stage.”
Justice Minister Amir Ohana said that he hoped the U.S. could step in to help in her release as Issachar also holds American citizenship.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz also weighed in, saying, “More is unknown than known regarding this case, but the severe punishment she received for the crime of possessing a minimal quantity of a drug during a connection is worrying and raises concerns.”
“We must allow the Foreign Minister and the various systems to make every effort to bring her home without turning this into a political issue. Blue and White under my leadership will support every reasonable action which will help solve this situation.”