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January 20, 2020 4:38 pm

Putin, Netanyahu Expected to Discuss Case of Jailed Israeli-American Woman During Russian Leader’s Visit to Jewish State

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.

The case of a young Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia is expected to be discussed when President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet later this week during the Russian leader’s visit to the Jewish state.

Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested at a Moscow airport in April after being found 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.

It is widely believed that political considerations are behind Issachar’s heavy sentence, and a campaign is underway to obtain her freedom.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday the issue was “likely to come up” when Putin travels to Israel for a ceremony at Yad Vashem marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

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However, Peskov added, it would be “better to wait” before giving more details.

It is widely hoped that Putin will pardon Issachar.

Also on Monday, Netanyahu met with Issachar’s mother, and he later tweeted, “I hugged her on behalf of all of you and I told her that, as published today by the Kremlin, I anticipate meeting President Putin on Thursday and talking with him about a pardon for Naama. Like you, I hope for good news.

The Israeli news site Mako quoted Issachar’s mother as saying, “In a few days, President Putin will visit Israel, and I pray that he will answer my request and that of the entire Israeli public, and bring Naama home.”

She said to activists campaigning for her daughter’s release, “You have done a wonderful job so far. It is time to let negotiations between the countries develop. I am optimistic; you should be too. Naama and I, along with the entire family, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Following a phone call with Putin last Thursday, Netanyahu also exuded hopefulness about Issachar’s possible release, with his office saying the conversation 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.”

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