Kremlin: Jailed backpacker hasn’t requested pardon, delaying possible release
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'We have laws in Russia that need to be respected'

Kremlin: Jailed backpacker hasn’t requested pardon, delaying possible release

Moscow appears to take step closer toward freeing Naama Isaachar, jailed in Russia for 7.5 years on drug offenses, day after Putin sounds reassuring at meeting with her mother

Israeli-American Naama Issachar, jailed for drug smuggling, attends her appeal hearing at the Moscow Regional Court on December 19, 2019. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)
Israeli-American Naama Issachar, jailed for drug smuggling, attends her appeal hearing at the Moscow Regional Court on December 19, 2019. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

The Kremlin said Friday that a US-Israeli woman jailed in Russia has not requested a pardon, which is delaying any possible release.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was impossible for Naama Issachar to be granted a presidential pardon without her first submitting a formal request for one, the Reuters news agency reported.

“We have laws in Russia that need to be respected,” Peskov said, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Issachar, 27, was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana was found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April. She has denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Issachar’s mother on Thursday met with President Vladimir Putin, who told her in a meeting that he will return her daughter home.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Yaffa Issachar, mother of Israeli citizen Naama Issachar who is jailed in Russia for a drugs offense in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2020 (Aleksey Nikolskyi, Sputnik Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Yaffa Issachar said she was smiling after the Jerusalem meeting because “Putin told me: ‘I’ll bring the girl home.’ Really,” she said. “Let’s wait and see, there is no date for the release.”

Yaffa Issachar’s comments came after Putin earlier hinted at a possible pardon for Naama, telling her that “everything will be okay.”

Standing alongside Netanyahu and the visibly moved Issachar, Putin told a press conference that Netanyahu’s position was clear to him and he was taking it into consideration in making a decision.

As Naama’s mother smiled, Putin hinted at a possible pardon saying, “I told her and I am saying it again now, everything will be all right.”

He said that it was clear to him that Naama comes from a “good family,” and added that the Israeli-American, who is being held in a prison outside Moscow, will meet with an official in charge of human rights in Russia, but did not specify when or what the purpose of the meeting would be.

Putin arrived in Israel Thursday for a one-day visit to attend the World Holocaust Forum, which this year is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by holding a major international event.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah smile as the mother of Naama Issachar, who is imprisoned in Russia, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, ahead of the World Holocaust Forum (HEIDI LEVINE / POOL / AFP)

Issachar has become a cause celebre in Israel, where her arrest and sentence are largely viewed as politically motivated. Netanyahu has promised the family to work for her release and has expressed hopes for securing a pardon.

According to Hebrew media reports, Russia has asked Israel to transfer a piece of Russian Orthodox Church property near the Old City of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Kremlin, as a goodwill gesture ahead of Issachar’s release.

Russia has been demanding Israel hand over rights to Alexander’s Courtyard for over a decade, but Justice Ministry officials along with two senior Likud lawmakers who are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Yuli Edelstein and Ze’ev Elkin, have opposed the measure.

Aleksey Burkov, a Russian hacker slated for extradition to the United States, arrives for a hearing at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem on November 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, a Russian national whose extradition from Israel to the US was believed linked to Isaachar’s fate, pleaded guilty to running a website that helped people commit more than $20 million in credit-card fraud.

Aleksey Burkov, 29, of St. Petersburg, Russia, entered the plea to charges including fraud and money laundering in a federal court in Virginia.

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