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November 1, 2019 9:34 am

Israel to Extradite Russian Hacker to US, Ending Hopes of Prisoner Exchange

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Family, friends and supporters protest as they calling for the release of Naama Issachar, an Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia for drug offenses, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90. – Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana on Wednesday signed the extradition order of Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov, who is wanted in the United States on suspicion of cyber crimes.

Burkov’s extradition ends hopes of a prisoner exchange with Russia whereby Russia would release American-Israeli Naama Issachar, 26, who has been imprisoned in Russia since earlier this year for drug-related offenses.

The extradition order was signed “after many in-depth deliberations in recent weeks, with various parties, among them political and legal figures,” said Ohana in a statement.

Lawyers for Issachar’s family met with the justice minister earlier this month to argue against going through with the extradition, saying the move would be a severe blow to their daughter, who was sentenced by a Russian court earlier this month to seven-and-a-half years in prison after nearly 10 grams of cannabis was found in her carry-on bag during a stopover in Moscow.

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According to reports in the US and Israeli media, the harsh sentence may have been intended as retaliation for Israel’s refusal to release Burkov into Russian custody.

Issachar’s family called the extradition order “immoral and inhumane,” and contradicted promises from Ohana that he would do everything in his power to free Issachar, who many Israelis believe is being used as a political bargaining chip by Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has submitted a formal pardon request for Issachar to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I suggest not creating a very dangerous precedent here, that each time there is a country that wants to have someone extradited, it captures an Israeli and makes a scapegoat of them,” Ohana told Kan public radio in an interview earlier this month.

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