Alexei Burkov to be extradited to U.S., not 'traded' for Naama Issachar

Naama Issachar’s lawyers said their appeal was based on “an expectation based on the principles of law and justice that this decision will not stand.”

October 30, 2019 22:08
2 minute read.
MK Amir Ohana


Justice Minister Amir Ohana has signed off on the extradition of alleged Russian hacker Alexei Burkov to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of credit fraud, a step that could further complicate efforts for the release of Naama Issachar, the young Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia on a minor drug charge.

Burkov’s case has taken on heightened significance, after Moscow seemingly tied his case to Issachar when it curtailed her prison privileges after Burkov’s final appeal to the Supreme Court against his extradition was rejected.

Ohana issued a statement Wednesday night saying that he had approved Burkov’s extradition, explaining that the decision had been made after “many in-depth deliberations conducted with various officials, including legal and diplomatic officials.”

Issachar’s lawyers said in response they would file an appeal to the High Court of Justice against Ohana’s decision, saying that Burkov’s extradition to the US could “seal her fate” in Russia and harm her rights.

Issachar’s lawyers said their appeal is “an expectation based on the principles of law and justice that this decision will not stand.”

Issachar, who was born in the US and has dual American-Israeli citizenship, was returning to Israel in April after a three-month trip to India, via a connecting flight though Moscow.

As she was boarding her flight to Tel Aviv, she was pulled over by Russian police, who told her they had found what turned out to be just 9 grams of cannabis in her checked baggage.

The cannabis was never on her person while she was in the Moscow airport, but in her checked luggage, and she never left the airport or even tried to, which her lawyers said demonstrated she had no intent to “smuggle” the 9 grams of cannabis into Russia.

She was nevertheless convicted earlier this month and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Ohana himself has described Issachar’s sentence as “disproportionate,” while the terms of her incarceration are severe, including just two family visits a month, as well as a ban on phone conversations and receiving kosher food.

In a statement to the press, Issachar’s family described Ohana’s decision as unethical and inhumane.

“Naama is innocent and is a captive and a bargaining chip between two global powers. The Russians are making Naama’s conditions every day, and it is the State of Israel’s responsibility to get her out of this nightmare which she is in.”

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