An Israeli woman is being held in Belarus on suspicion of having tried to smuggle some 2.5 grams (under a tenth of an ounce) of medical marijuana into the country.
Maya Rayten-Stol, a lawyer who holds an Israeli Health Ministry medical marijuana license, was arrested in Minsk airport, on her way into the country, three weeks ago, her family told Channel 12 Saturday night.
Upon her arrest, she reportedly stressed to Belarussian authorities that the cannabis in her possession was licensed by the Health Ministry and tried to show documents to prove her assertion, but was ignored.
Held in the notorious Pishchalauski Castle prison, known as the country’s main re-trial detention center where arrested political activists are detained, Rayten-Stol has only been granted one phone call in three weeks, her family said.
“My daughter, my only, my beloved, was arrested in Belarus for something that, according to Israeli law, is fine — but not with them,” Rayten-Stol’s mother, Monica Krozensky, told Channel 12.
“I do not know how long it will take. She is a girl, she is a great mother, a single mother, a mother who provides lots and lots of strength to her family and they need her. I do not understand why she is not being released,” she said.
According to Belarussian law, she could face three to five years in prison for the offense.
Her family has requested assistance from the Foreign Ministry.
“This is someone who uses and consumes medical cannabis in light of personal medical problems. The State of Israel must intervene and clarify the situation,” Avi Himi, chairman of the Israel Bar Association, and attorney Sharon Nahari, who specializes in international law, wrote this week in a letter to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on behalf of the family.
“I beg the prime minister, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, anyone who can help — to help,” Krozensky told Channel 12. “Let them bring her home to us. She should not be there. She has children who need her. We cannot wait like this. I beg of you, I beg you to bring her home.”
The Foreign Ministry said it had been in direct contact with the family and that Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, Alon Shoham, had visited Rayten-Stol in jail.
The case comes in the wake of the much-publicized arrest in Turkey earlier this month of Natali and Mordi Oknin, who were held for eight days on suspicion of espionage after they photographed a presidential palace.
The Israeli government was intensely involved in efforts to secure the couple’s release, amid fears they could face years in prison on trumped-up charges. But it does not, as a rule, intervene so strongly in every case involving Israelis’ arrests abroad.
Last year, Israel put in intensive efforts to secure the release of Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old Israeli woman who received a seven-year prison sentence in Moscow on marijuana charges.
According to statistics issued by Channel 12 last week, 303 Israelis are currently jailed or detained abroad.