Pardon deal for Naama Issachar advances prior to Putin arrival in Israel

According to reports in the Israeli media, Israel and Russia agreed to the broad contours of a pardon for the young backpacker jailed in Moscow over drug possession.

By World Israel News Staff and JNS

On Monday evening, reports on Channels 12 and 13 in Israel indicated that a deal was moving forward for the release of Naama Issachar from Russian prison.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, during a meeting many hope will result in an announcement regarding Issachar’s release.

According to Times of Israel, the two nations had “agree[d] in principle” on pardoning Issachar as of Monday evening.

Reports related to the pardon indicated that Israel would be required to make concessions to Russia in exchange for the pardon, including potentially altering the status of a Russian building near Jerusalem’s Old City.

Yaffa Issachar, Naama’s mother, commented on Sunday, “We’ll know this week when Naama will be released. I want to go see [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and show him my support. I believe that Putin will pardon her.”

Issachar was arrested in April during a layover in Moscow on the way back to Israel, after 9.5 grams of marijuana were found in her checked luggage. Though she denied having any intention of leaving the airport, she was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Putin is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday to take part in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum along with dignitaries and heads of state from around the world.

Ahead of his arrival, rumors have swirled in the Russian and Israeli press that the Russian president is considering pardoning Issachar.

At the airport on Sunday, Yaffa Issachar urged the supporters who had arrived to welcome her not to protest or cause an incident during Putin’s visit.

“I appreciate everything you have done to bring Naama’s plight to the public sphere,” she said, “but now is the time to let negotiations play out.”

Following a conversation with Putin last week, Netanyahu on Sunday alluded to the possibility of a pardon, stating at his weekly Cabinet meeting, “I hope that on the occasion of the visit, we will also hear good news soon.”

According to Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov is scheduled to meet with Israeli Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a pardon for Issachar.