Israeli woman jailed in Russia yet to ask for pardon

MOSCOW (AP) — An Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges cannot be pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin until she herself petitions for it, a Kremlin spokesman said yesterday.

Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested in April at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where she was transferring flights on her way from India to Israel. Russian authorities said more than nine grammes of hashish were found in her luggage.

She was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, and a higher court in Moscow upheld the verdict and sentence last month.

Israeli leaders deemed the sentence excessive, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Putin to pardon Issachar.

While in Israel for a Holocaust forum, Putin met on Thursday with Issachar’s mother and told her “everything will be all right”. However, the Russian leader also indicated that a final decision on the pardon was yet to be made.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Issachar herself hasn’t petitioned for a pardon yet, and Russian law requires that step for the presidential pardon to be granted.

It “stalls the situation,” Perskov said. “How can (the President) pardon (her), if the young woman herself isn’t asking for it? In this situation, certain formalities need to be observed,” Peskov told reporters yesterday.

Israeli Naama Issachar during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AFP