JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent an official request to Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon an Israeli-American woman sentenced in Russia to 7 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of smuggling marijuana into the country.
The request submitted on Sunday to pardon Naama Issachar, 26, and return her to Israel is on behalf of Netanyahu and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.
Netanyahu has discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Sochi on Sept. 12 and during a phone call last week.
Rivlin on Sunday had sent Putin a letter appealing for “mercy and compassion with a request for your personal intervention to grant her an extraordinary pardon.”
A Moscow court handed down the sentence to Issachar on Friday. She has been detained in Russia since April after 9 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage before a connecting flight in Russia on the way from India to Israel, where she moved while in high school. She had not planned to enter Russia. Nine grams is less than a third of an ounce and is within the legal limit for personal use in Israel.
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.
On Sunday, Burkov was moved to protective custody, a monitored wing at Nitzan Prison in Ramle to “ensure his well-being.”