Russia Israeli Backpacker
MOSCOW (AP) — An Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges cannot be pardoned by President Vladimir Putin until she herself petitions for it, a Kremlin spokesman said Friday.
Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested in April at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where she was transferring flights on her way from India to Israel. Russian authorities said more than nine grams of hashish were found in her luggage.
She was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, and a higher court in Moscow upheld the verdict and sentence last month.
Israeli leaders deemed the sentence excessive, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Putin to pardon Issachar.
While in Israel for a Holocaust forum, Putin met Thursday with Issachar's mother and told her “everything will be all right.” However, the Russian leader also indicated that a final decision on the pardon was yet to be made.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Issachar herself hasn't petitioned for a pardon yet, and Russian law requires that step for the presidential pardon to be granted.
It “stalls the situation,” Perskov said.
“How can (the president) pardon (her), if the young woman herself isn't asking for it? In this situation, certain formalities need to be observed," Peskov told reporters on Friday.
Earlier this week, Israeli media linked Issachar's possible pardon with the reported decision to pass control of the Alexander courtyard in Jerusalem's Old City to Russia. Russian officials denied any connection.
The Alexander courtyard, which was bought by Russia in 1859, is meters from Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is one of several Jerusalem properties Moscow claims, and the dispute over it has been a source of friction between the usually friendly Israel and Russia.