The mother of an Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia on drug charges appealed Saturday to President Reuven Rivlin, asking him not to host Vladimir Putin at his official residence when the Russian leader visits Israel later this month.
“It is inconceivable that you, the president of the state, will receive at the President’s Residence… the president of Russia, who is holding my daughter Naama as a political bargaining chip for extortion,” Yaffa Issachar wrote in an open letter published on Facebook.
Naama Issachar, 27, has been held by Russia since April when some 10 grams of cannabis were found in her luggage during a layover in Moscow.
She was sentenced to seven and a half years for drug smuggling, a charge she denied, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the stopover on her way back to Israel from India.
“Naama, who traveled to India for a trip with her friends and was marked from the first moment as an asset for political extortion against Israel, has already gone through ten months of a nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on anyone in the world,” Yaafa Issachar said.
She said Rivlin should have told Putin, who will be in Jerusalem for events marking 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, that he would not host the Russian leader at his official residence after a Russian court rejected Issachar’s appeal last month.
“I would like to inform you that it is my intention to come straight from Moscow to the entrance to the President’s Residence that same evening and block with my body the entrance of the Russian president and his delegation,” said Issachar, who has been in the Russian capital working to secure her daughter’s release.
She asked Rivlin to instruct his bodyguards not “to prevent from me my duty as a mother and citizen of the State of Israel,” saying Putin’s presence at the President’s Residence would be a “personal and national humiliation.”
Issachar did not say in the letter what aim she believed Russia had for holding her daughter. Moscow had reportedly sought to swap Naama for Aleksey Burkov, a Russian hacker who was held by Israel before being extradited to the United States in November. He is to face embezzlement charges for a credit card scheme that allegedly saw millions of dollars stolen from American consumers.
The proposed exchange was rebuffed by Israeli officials, who warned it could set a dangerous precedent.
After a Russian court rejected the appeal last month, Yaffa Issachar said Naama would file another appeal with a higher-level court and also turn to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Issachar’s case has become a cause célèbre in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called the prison sentence “absurd,” asked Putin to pardon her in a phone call last week.
Moscow has said the Russian leader would consider the request.
Netanyahu, who has touted close ties with Moscow, promised during a campaign event in December to spring Issachar from Russian prison, raising hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough.
After the appeal hearing, Netanyahu told Issachar’s mother that he was continuing to work for her release. Israeli officials have expressed hope that Putin will release Issachar as a goodwill gesture before or during his upcoming visit to Israel.
Issachar was abruptly moved last week from the Moscow prison where she was being held to a remote detention facility, but was returned days later.