Russian prosecutors have asked that an Israeli woman be sentenced to eight years in prison for smuggling marijuana that was found in her bag during a stopover for a connecting flight from Moscow.
Naama Issachar was in court Wednesday for the hearing that wrapped up the prosecution and defense arguments in her case.
Backpacker Issachar, who was arrested in April, was fasting throughout the day of the court hearing as it was held on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, her family told Channel 12 news.
Issachar doesn’t deny that there were 10 grams of marijuana in her bag, but has claimed she had no intention of crossing Russian border control and therefore is not a smuggler, Haaretz reported Wednesday.
Prosecutors say that because Issachar’s bag entered Russian airspace with the drugs inside it, her actions should be considered smuggling.
After the hearing, Issachar’s mother Yaffa told Haaretz that her daughter denies smuggling but has admitted “to making a mistake and that she didn’t know the law in Russia.”
Issachar was returning from a trip to India and stopped over in Moscow airport to catch a connecting flight to Tel Aviv. As her backpack was moving along a conveyor belt a police sniffer dog identified it as suspicious. Authorities searched the bag and found the marijuana wrapped in plastic, concealed inside a toiletries bag.
A simple charge of drug possession would carry a sentence of months in prison at most, whereas drug smuggling can be punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.
Issachar’s attorney said after the court session that his client should be acquitted of the charge of smuggling drugs and sentenced to a punishment for possession, within the framework of the six months that she has already spent in jail.
“If the court finds her guilty of smuggling it will set a dangerous precedent,” he warned.
A ruling in the case is expected by the end of the week. The court rejected a request that Issachar be released to house arrest due to objection by the prosecution.
Yaffa Issachar called on Israeli authorities to help out her daughter. She said last week that Naama had told her that “she can’t see the end, just hearing after hearing. I am just afraid that she will get prison time.”
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that, along with the Israeli consulate in Moscow, it was in contact with Issachar and her family as soon as it learned of her arrest to offer humanitarian help, but that it would not get involved in the legal proceedings.
Citing diplomatic conventions, the ministry said that as a matter of principle, “the state avoids getting involved in the investigation and trial proceedings of its citizens in foreign countries.
“In this case, some unusual actions and inquiries were made to senior officials in Russia, including the Russian deputy foreign minister,” the statement said. “The Russians made it clear that it is a case of a criminal offense that requires a trial in accordance with Russian law.”