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December 26, 2019 12:38 pm

In Call With Putin, Netanyahu Urges Release of Israeli-American Woman Languishing in Russian Jail

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Protesters call for the release of Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia on drug charges, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90.

In a telephone call on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Iran and the situation in Syria, as well as the case of imprisoned backpacker Naama Issachar.

Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister “requested that President Putin effect the release of” Issacahar, the 26-year-old Israeli-American woman who has been jailed in Russia since April on drug charges.

Issachar was detained at a Moscow airport after a small amount of cannabis was found in her belongings during a stopover as she was returning home to Israel from a trip to India.

She was later sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for drug smuggling, a charge she denies.

Her case has become a cause célèbre in Israel, with her family and supporters seeking her freedom.

Earlier this month, a Moscow court rejected Issachar’s appeal and upheld her sentence.

Many, including Issachar’s family, believe that there are political reasons behind her heavy sentence, and thus hope that diplomatic negotiations can bring her home to Israel and end her saga.

Putin plans to travel to Israel next month, and protests on Issachar’s behalf are anticipated during his visit.

Also on Thursday, Issachar’s mother, Yafa, and the rabbi of the Moscow Chabad House lit Hanukkah candles outside the prison where she is being held.

Netanyahu and Putin have spoken by phone, as well as met in person, numerous times in recent years, with the frequency increasing following the start of Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in 2015.

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