Russia: Israel okaying hacker’s extradition to US harms ties between us

Court’s decision to uphold Aleksey Burkov’s extradition ‘does not help’ Jerusalem-Moscow relations, embassy warns, in case linked to jailing of Israeli woman in Russia

Aleksey Burkov attends an appeals hearing against his extradition to the United States at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Aleksey Burkov attends an appeals hearing against his extradition to the United States at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Russia’s embassy in Israel on Monday slammed a High Court of Justice ruling rejecting the appeal of a Russian hacker jailed in Israel against extradition to the United States, calling the decision “a breach of his rights” and saying it does not help relations between Jerusalem and Moscow.

“We regret the decision of Israeli’s High Court of Justice to turn down Mr. Burkov’s appeal on his extradition to [the United States],” the embassy’s statement said. “This decision constitutes a breach of his rights as well as Israel’s international obligations. This step does not contribute to the development of [Russia-Israel] relations.”

Aleksey Burkov, who was arrested in 2015 at the request of Interpol, is wanted in the US on embezzlement charges over a massive credit card scheme that saw him allegedly steal millions of dollars from American consumers.

His fate is believed linked to Russia’s sentencing last month of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, 26, to seven and a half years in prison for drug offenses. Israeli officials have decried the sentence as disproportionate and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for her release.

The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected Burkov’s petition, green-lighting his deportation to the United States against Moscow’s wishes.

Naama Issachar, sentenced to 7.5 years in Russia over alleged drug smuggling, in an undated photo (Courtesy)

During the hearing at the High Court of Justice last week, Burkov’s lawyers filed what they said was a letter of complaint sent by Russia to Israel saying Jerusalem has been ignoring a Russian extradition request for three years. Burkov’s lawyers also requested that Israel be allowed to hold talks with the US and Russia to reach an agreement on the Russian’s fate.

Issachar’s family also had filed a request to the High Court to request a delay to Burkov’s extradition, but on Tuesday her mother asked that the petition be withdrawn.

Israeli officials believe Burkov’s looming extradition to the US is part of the reason a Russian court sentenced Issachar on drug trafficking charges after just 10 grams of marijuana were found in her bag as she changed flights at a Moscow airport en route from India to Israel in April.

“There has been a development in the dialogue between the family and officials,” the family wrote in its last Tuesday request to cancel the appeal. The withdrawal of the appeal will allow “effective and focused” efforts to bring about Issachar’s release, it said.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana earlier this month signed Burkov’s extradition order, saying in a statement that “the decision was made after many in-depth deliberations in recent weeks with various parties, among them political and legal figures.”

Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at the Knesset on September 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ohana has rejected tying Issachar’s fate to Burkov, warning that other countries could detain Israelis if one of their countrymen is wanted for extradition.

Reports in Hebrew media have said Israeli officials believe Burkov may be connected to Russian intelligence. Burkov, in an interview with Channel 13, denied any such involvement.

Israeli officials told Hebrew media earlier this month that Jerusalem turned down an offer by Moscow to swap Burkov for Issachar. Russia is seeking Burkov’s extradition and has repeatedly pressed Israel to return him.

A Foreign Ministry official told the Ynet news site last month that Israel hopes Issachar will be released by the time of Putin’s planned visit to Jerusalem early next year.

Rallies were held in Tel Aviv and New York on October 19 calling for Issachar’s release.

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