MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. Israeli national Naama Issachar, convicted in Russia for drug smuggling, must appeal for pardon to be granted one, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
"We have Russian laws, and they must be adhered to," he stressed. "So far, the woman has not appealed for pardon. This is the situation as of yesterday (January 23 - TASS) afternoon. How can there be a pardon if the woman is not asking for one?" Peskov added. "We must follow some formalities to start this process."
Peskov reminded that on January 23, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova visited Issachar at a detention facility in the Moscow Region "in light of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's contacts in Jerusalem." The spokesman mentioned Putin’s meeting with the convict’s mother, Yaffa Issachar, which was held in the presence of Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. "You remember Putin’s words, he said that everything is going to be alright," Peskov pointed out. "However, in the afternoon, while still in Jerusalem, we received information from Moskalkova that the woman had not addressed the president with an appeal for pardon. This is what is slowing down the process right now."
The Kremlin spokesman explained that "there was a de facto pardon appeal from the side of [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, however, it is not enough to act on from the de jure point of view." In response to a reporter’s comment noting that ex-CEO of the now-defunct Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky had not sent a pardon appeal before he was granted one, Peskov suggested that the media ask Khodorkovsky about the real sequence of events. "There is a lot you don’t know, but you will probably know in time. Ask Khodorkovsky," he said.
Issachar’s defense claimed earlier that there is no need for a pardon appeal for the Israeli national’s release.
Naama Issachar, an Israeli and US national, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on April 9, 2019, when she was in the airport’s transit zone before boarding a connecting flight to Tel Aviv after arriving from New Delhi. The airport’s security guards found 9.6 grams of cannabis in her luggage.
On October 11, 2019, the Khimki City Court in the Moscow Region found Issachar guilty of drug possession and smuggling (Part 1, Section 228 and Part 2, Section 229.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced her to 7.5 years in a standard regime penal colony. The Moscow Regional Court upheld the verdict on December 19.
In October 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin asked Putin to pardon Issachar. On December 6, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that he had raised the issue at a meeting with Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov in Rome, expressing hope that the Russian president would consider the request to pardon the Israeli national.
During his trip to Jerusalem on January 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured Issachar’s mother that "everything is going to be alright" regarding her daughter. "I have just met with Naama’s mother," the head of state said after the meeting. "It is clear to me that Naama comes from a very good and decent family. I am aware of the position of [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] who asks to make an appropriate decision. All that will certainly be taken into account when the final decision is made," Putin said.