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January 16, 2020 1:02 pm

After Call With Putin, Netanyahu Exudes ‘Optimism’ About Potential Release of Israeli-American Woman Jailed in Russia

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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “optimism” about obtaining the release of a young Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia following a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested at a Moscow airport after she was found to be in possession of a small amount of cannabis during a stopover on the way home to Israel from a trip to India. She was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for drug smuggling, a charge she denies.

It is widely believed that political reasons were behind her heavy sentence, and a campaign is underway to free her.

A statement published by Netanyahu’s office on Thursday said the call with Putin was “warm and to the point” and “strengthened the prime minister’s optimism that the issue of the release of Naama Issachar is advancing towards a solution.”

Issachar’s mother, Yafa, said of the news, “The prime minister told me that it is my responsibility to maintain Naama’s psychological resilience as long as she is in Russian prison, and to be strong and optimistic, because as the Israeli prime minister, he is obligated to get Naama released.”

“I’m optimistic right now, and ask the president of Russia with all my heart to act as a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and the leader of a world power, and release my Naama back to her home in Israel,” she added.

Putin is due to visit Israel later this month.

A Kremlin statement about Thursday’s phone call made no mention of Issachar.

A Kommersant report on Thursday raised the possibility that Issachar could be pardoned as a humanitarian gesture ahead of Putin’s Israel trip.

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