Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally intervened in the case of an Israeli-American woman who was sentenced in Russia to 7 1/2 years in prison following her conviction for smuggling marijuana into the country.
Netanyahu has been involved in the case of Naama Issachar for several weeks, according to a statement from his office issued on Friday, including discussing the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Sochi on September 12 and during a phone call last week.
A Moscow court handed down the sentence Issachar, a 26-year-old Israeli army veteran, on Friday. Russia had tried exchanging Issachar for Aleksey Burkov, a Russian hacker held in Israel set to be extradited to the United States.
Burkov is wanted in the U.S. on embezzlement charges for a massive credit card scheme which allegedly stole millions of dollars from American consumers.
Issachar had been detained since April in Russia after 9 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage while catching a connecting flight in Russia from India to Israel, where she moved while in high school. She denies the marijuana was hers. Nine grams is less than a third of an ounce and is within the legal limit for personal use in Israel. In Russia, possession of such an amount by a foreigner would normally result in up to a month’s detention, a fine and expulsion, her lawyer told her family, according to the New York Times.
“The punishment being demanded by the Russian prosecutor is disproportionate and does not fit the nature of the offense being attributed to Issachar,” the statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
Netanyahu requested a commuting of the sentence and an easing of the terms of Issachar’s detention.