Netanyahu officially requests pardon for Na'ama Issachar

She was arrested in April for carrying nine grams of cannabis in her checked luggage, before boarding a connecting flight from Russia on her way from India to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, Moscow on April 4th, 2019 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, Moscow on April 4th, 2019
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon Naama Issachar, 26, who was sentenced last week to seven-and-a-half years in a Russian jail for possession of nine grams of pot.
Issachar was arrested in April for carrying nine grams of cannabis in her checked luggage as she flew from India to Israel, while going to board a connecting flight in Russia.
On Sunday Rivlin sent Putin a letter asking him to pardon Issachar. On Tuesday, both Netanyahu and Rivlin forwarded a pardon request.
In his letter to Putin, Rivlin said that he recognized the Russian president as “a friend of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel,” and requested that Putin intervene and grant her a pardon.
“Na’ama made a grave mistake and has admitted her crime, but in the case of a young woman with no criminal record, the severe sentence handed down will have a deeply destructive impact on her life,” he wrote. “The Jewish people and the State of Israel are grateful for your sensitivity to human life and for your willingness to endanger the lives of your soldiers to locate and return the body of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel.
“Because of the particular and individual circumstances of Na’ama Issachar’s case, I am appealing to your mercy and compassion with a request for your personal intervention to grant her an extraordinary pardon,” Rivlin said.
Russia reportedly wishes to swap Issachar with Russian hacker Alexei Burkov, a Russian national detained by Israel during a 2015 visit. Israel says he is wanted by the United States for suspected cyber fraud; Israel has already agreed to extradite him to the US.
Issachar's lawyer claims that such a trade "would complicate the situation" for Issachar, Ynet reported.
Netanyahu has appeared to rule out any such exchange, however, saying Israel’s Supreme Court had approved Burkov’s extradition to the United States.
Burkov’s extradition must be formally approved by Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who on Saturday said he would decide whether to do so within days and hinted that he might weigh a rival Russian extradition request.
Issachar's mother Yafa met with her on Monday for the first time since her seven-and-a-half year sentence. She told Army Radio: "She doesn't understand who Alexei Burkov is and how he is related to her. For half a year already, she is in a room with three other people, she sees the sky through bars and I bring her food. She doesn't tell me everything, but I feel that there are better days and there are worse days."
Yafa continued, "She heard about President Rivlin's letter to Putin and told me, 'Mom, why do I need a pardon? It means I'm a criminal, which I'm not.'"

Jeremy Sharon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.