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December 23, 2019 4:26 pm

‘We Need a Hanukkah Miracle,’ Says Sister of Israeli-American Woman Imprisoned in Russia

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Naama Issachar. Photo: Facebook.

The sister of an Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia on drug charges said that her family needed a “Hanukkah miracle” after her appeal was rejected.

Naama Issachar was arrested at a Moscow airport in April while waiting for a connecting flight after she was found to be in possession of a small amount of cannabis. She was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for drug smuggling, a charge she denies. Last week, a Russian appeals court upheld the sentence.

There has been a campaign underway in Israel for some time to obtain her release. There is widespread suspicion that the motives behind the heavy sentence are political in nature.

Israel’s Channel 13 quoted Liad Goldberg, Naama’s sister, as saying, “We need a Hanukkah miracle because our family is falling apart.”

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Referring to her sister’s appeal, Goldberg said, “What happened in court was a big joke. It showed us that the appeals or legal process will not get Naama out.”

She added that she believed only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could free Naama through diplomatic negotiations.

Goldberg also referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to Israel, imploring Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, “If you’re going to host him, at the very least you should host Naama alongside him. I ask you, the president of the state, to stand up in front of Putin and ask him to pardon Naama.”

Of the moment when Naama’s appeal was rejected, Goldberg said, “I’ll never forget her face. She tried to stand up straight and strong and express no emotion, but I know my sister and I knew she was falling apart inside.”

“I looked at my mom, who was trying to get around the guards to hug her, and they just stopped her, really held my mom, but she kept yelling, ‘But I’m her mom, let me hug her!’” Goldberg recounted.

“I remember the face of Naama and my mom as soon as it was said the appeal was not accepted and I couldn’t sleep at night,” she added.

Officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry said last Thursday that they had conveyed a document to a Russian delegation that pled Naama’s case and listed the reasons she should be released.

They also handed over a personal letter from President Rivlin asking for a pardon. The ministry asked for the letter to be passed to President Putin.

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