(Bloomberg) — The mother of an Israeli woman imprisoned on drug-smuggling charges in Russia said she’s hopeful President Vladimir Putin will pardon her daughter.
Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old U.S.-born Israeli army veteran, was sentenced in October to 7 1/2 years for carrying a small amount of hashish in her luggage on a transit flight via Moscow after a backpacking trip to India. Her plight has become a cause celebre in Israel, where it’s widely seen as politically motivated.
Putin met with Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday, on the sidelines of an international forum on the Holocaust. He assured her that “everything will be all right,” and on Sunday, Naama Issachar applied for a presidential pardon, her lawyers said.
When asked in a text message exchange whether she expects her daughter to return to Israel soon, Yaffa Issachar replied: “I hope so.” The request for a pardon has been received and “all necessary legal procedures are being carried out at the moment so the president can take a decision on this issue in the nearest future,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call Monday.
A decision to free Issachar, who’s been in detention since April, could bolster Netanyahu, who’s been indicted on corruption charges and is fighting for his political survival at the country’s third election in less than a year in March.
The Kremlin said last week that Israel and Russia are also making progress in settling a dispute over the ownership of Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem, which Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said could form part of a quid pro quo to secure Issachar’s release.
The Russian leader has previously rebuffed multiple pleas from Netanyahu for Issachar’s sentence to be commuted.
Her case for a time became entangled with that of a Russian national, Alexei Burkov, whom Israel extradited to the U.S. in November on charges including hacking and credit card fraud. Russia had offered to swap the two, according to Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician.
(Adds Putin spokesman’s comment in 4th paragraph)
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