25-year-old Naama Issachar charged with drug smuggling nine grams of cannabis in her checked baggage
Naama Issachar, 25, was charged with smuggling narcotics into Russia after nine grams of cannabis were found in her checked baggage, which was being transferred through to Israel.
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 the cannabis in her checked baggage.
Issachar acknowledged that the baggage was hers but said that the cannabis was not, and that she did not know how it got into her luggage.
She was then transferred out of the airport to a detention facility in Moscow, where she was charged with possession of cannabis, which usually entails a one-month period of detention, a fine, and a ban from entering the country.
Issachar is currently incarcerated in a women’s prison an hour and a half’s journey outside of Moscow.
Issachar’s sister Liad says that the charges against her sister for smuggling the drugs into Russia are without any foundation, given that the cannabis was found in checked baggage that was being transferred to her connecting flight destined for Tel Aviv.
Liad asserted that this was evidence that Naama never had any intention of bringing the cannabis into Russia, since she would never have had access to it while in the airport.
Liad also said that her sister never tried to leave the airport, that she remained at her departure gate the entire time she was there, and that her stopover was just four hours.
Nine grams of cannabis is a small amount, and Liad noted that authorities in Israel do not prosecute an individual for possession of 15 grams or less if it is intended for personal use.
“My sister is falling apart,” Liad told The Jerusalem Post. “She’s at her wits end. We saw her the other day. We were only allowed to see her through a glass partition, and she cried the entire time. She’s at her breaking point. We need to get her out of there. She doesn’t speak Russian. No one speaks English, and the guards yell at her when she doesn’t understand what they want. She can’t converse with anyone. She gets no information. She has no idea what’s happening. She’s completely in the dark. How can she mentally survive in those conditions?”
Liad said that she and her mother, Yaffa, were “urging” the State of Israel and the US to get involved and to fight with the Russian government for Issachar’s release so she can return to Israel.
“She has no criminal past,” Liad said. “She served in the IDF and was an outstanding soldier in a combat unit. We want her country to fight for her like she fought for it for three years.”
Yaffa Issachar said her daughter is desperate for help. She noted that Issachar’s lawyers believe they have sufficient evidence proving their client was not smuggling drugs, but they had expressed caution about the chances she will be acquitted.
Yaffa said that they had been in touch with the Israeli and US embassies in Moscow, which had helped obtain visitation rights, but both said that they were unable to intervene in the legal process in Russia.
“We are aware of the issue and are in contact with the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, and are trying to work things out,” said a spokesman for the Russia Embassy in Israel.
The Foreign Ministry said that the Israeli Consul in Moscow, Yaffa Olevtzki, and the consular department of the ministry had been in contact with Naama’s family since she was arrested, and had provided consular and humanitarian assistance.
The ministry said that in general the government could not intervene in the legal proceedings of another country, but that it had conducted “out of the ordinary” steps and “appealed to senior echelons in Russia,” including to the Russian deputy foreign minister, to help Naama.
“The Russians made clear that at issue was a criminal offense requiring a legal process in accordance with Russian law,” the Foreign Ministry said.