Family of Israeli-American Woman Imprisoned in Russia on Drug Charges ‘Devastated’ After Appeal Rejected
A Russian court rejected on Thursday the appeal of an Israeli-American woman imprisoned since April on drug charges.
Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested at a Moscow airport while waiting for a connecting flight after being found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. She was convicted and sentenced for drug smuggling, a charge she vehemently denied. It is widely suspected that there are political motives behind the serious charge and heavy prison sentence of seven and a half years.
A campaign has been underway for some time, spearheaded by Naama’s family, to bring her home, either by legal or diplomatic means.
Following Thursday’s ruling, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Naama’s mother Yafa, telling her, “Despite the disappointment of the court verdict — I am not giving up. I will continue to do everything to bring Naama back home.”
According to Israeli news site Mako, Yafa replied to Netanyahu, “Give me something, give me hope. Her sister and I told her that you would get her out of here — the prime minister will get you out of here. She stood up straight with pride and relaxed us, but they’re sending her back to prison. They didn’t even let us give her a hug.”
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said that a Russian delegation had arrived in Israel and he had asked them “to allow more family visits and to update us on her conditions.”
“We have established contacts on every level regarding this issue,” he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit Israel next month, and it is assumed that the issue of Issachar’s legal status will be raised during the visit.
Mako quoted an unnamed government source saying that although another appeal was possible, the only way Issachar could be freed was by “political-diplomatic” means.
The Issachar family issued a statement saying, “We are devastated and angry.” They called the court’s reaction to Naama’s appearance a “farce” and pointed to political motives behind the decision.
“Naama does not have to take on her shoulders all the issues dividing Israel and Russia,” the family said.
“We ask the prime minister — fulfill your obligations,” they added, and asked Netanyahu not to allow Putin to come to Israel “without bringing Naama home.”
The headquarters of the activist movement seeking Naama’s release also released a statement, calling the ruling “outrageous” and “a Russian slap to the State of Israel’s face.”
“The responsibility is in the hands of the Israeli government,” the statement asserted. “So starting today we are forced to take the gloves off in the struggle here, at home.”
The group also hinted it would seek to disrupt Putin’s visit to Israel, saying Putin and the Israeli government should both “think twice” if they thought the Russian leader’s trip would go smoothly.
Israeli attorney and legal expert Nir Yaslovitzh, the co-chairman of the Israel Bar Association’s Extradition and International Crimes Committee, told Mako that, in his opinion, the Issachar prosecution was revenge for Israel’s recent extradition to the US of a Russian hacker.
Israel, he said, should turn to the International Court of Human Rights on the grounds that Issachar did not receive a fair trial and was being used as “a pawn in the international chess game.”