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January 29, 2020 12:28 pm

Putin Pardons Young Israeli-American Woman Jailed in Russia on Drug Charges

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.

President Vladimir Putin officially pardoned an Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia on Wednesday, bringing months of diplomatic efforts and a grassroots campaign to obtain her release to fruition.

Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old who was born in New Jersey, 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 denied.

It is widely believed that political reasons were behind her heavy sentence.

Putin’s edict on Wednesday — which took effect immediately — read, “Guided by the principle of humanity, I hereby order that Issachar Naama be pardoned.”

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Issachar’s mother Yafa said, “This is the moment I have been waiting for almost a year. I’ve been on a long journey that I wouldn’t want anyone to go through.”

“At the moment all I want is to hug my daughter Naama,” she said.

“I would like to thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for showing compassion and responding to Naama’s request to return to Israel,” Yafa added.

Last Thursday, while visiting Israel, Putin met with Yafa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he strongly indicated that he would pardon Naama.

In remarks 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 promised.

Netanyahu will visit Moscow on Thursday to meet with Putin about the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan announced by US President Donald Trump earlier this week. It is possible that Issachar will return to Israel with him.

The Israeli prime minister stated on Wednesday, “I thank my friend President Putin for granting a pardon to Naama Issachar. I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow, at which we will discuss the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the latest developments in the region.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “So happy to get the news of President Putin’s decision to pardon Naama and I thank him for the wisdom and mercy of the decision. The prime minister’s important work on her release is praiseworthy. Our best wishes to the whole Issachar family.”

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