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January 27, 2020 11:08 am

Israeli-American Woman Jailed in Russia Formally Requests Pardon; Putin Set to Make Decision in ‘Near Future’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Yafa Issachar at a meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2020. Photo: Sputnik / Alexei Nikolskyi / Kremlin via Reuters.

The Kremlin said on Monday it had received a formal pardon request from a young Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia and President Vladimir Putin would make a decision on the case soon.

Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested at a Moscow airport last April 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.

“Legal proceedings on this matter are now being carried out so that President Putin can make a decision in the near future,” the Kremlin said on Monday, according to Israel’s Channel 13.

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It was reported on Monday the Moscow region pardon commission had recommended that Issachar be pardoned and freed.

The pardon request was submitted by Issachar’s lawyers on Sunday. “Naama, her family and her lawyers hope that the Russian president will quickly take, in accordance with his authority, a decision regarding Naama’s pardon and release,” the request said.

Last Thursday, while on a visit to Israel, Putin met with Issachar’s mother Yafa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he strongly indicated that he would pardon Naama.

Reuters reported that at a press conference after the meeting, Putin said, “I have met Naama’s mother. It’s clear to me that she is from a very good, honorable family. I know the position of the prime minister who is asking me to make an appropriate decision. All this will certainly be taken into account when the final decision is made.”

“The mother is very worried; I can see that. I told her and I want to repeat it again: everything will be fine,” Putin said to Yafa.

In an interview on Friday, Yafa said of meeting Putin, “I was told he was a cold man, that he might not look me in the eye, but he was very human.”

“He shook my hand,” she recounted. “I held him with the other hand — so he wouldn’t run away. I told him I was begging and praying for her to be released, and that I miss her.”

Putin, she said, told her, “I admit that the courts have acted very harshly, she was given too many years.”

On Jan. 20, Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar said of Issachar’s case, “I think we are finally nearing the end.”

Regarding a pardon, he told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, “I think that’s definitely the direction, but I don’t know and can’t say at what time or which day it will happen. The mood and feeling are positive.”

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