Israeli-American Naama Issachar is facing a seven-year prison sentence in Russia for smuggling less than 10 grams of marijuana. But the circumstances surrounding the case have pointed to trumped up charges and a clear perversion of justice in receiving such a harsh sentence for something that could not have done harm.
When the drugs were found in her luggage, she was immediately detained. But she was only on a layover, returning from India to Israel, and had no opportunity to get to her checked luggage that contained the drugs. During her appeal hearing today, she said she didn’t know the papers she was forced to sign were a confession as she was not provided a translator and does not speak Russian.
Issachar was sentenced to over seven years in prison for allegedly trying to smuggle less than 10 grams of cannabis, though she was only in Russia on a stopover on the way from India to Israel and did not have access to the luggage in which the drugs were found. Her lawyers have said the sentence is much harsher than the usual charges for such a small amount of narcotics.
“I didn’t know that I signed a confession,” Issachar said, explaining that when she was asked to sign the confession, there was no translator present and she didn’t understand it.
Issachar spoke from inside a glass box and was not permitted to communicate with her mother and sister who attended the trial.
It’s hard for Americans to fathom such harsh treatment for such a mild offense, but Russia has become increasingly strict with foreign nationals in recent years, hearkening back to the days of the Soviet Union in which paranoia reigned.
Washington DC hasn’t been involved yet, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to bring her home. Negotiations are ongoing, which doesn’t bode well for her appeal. Russia tends to hold its negotiating cards tightly. If they believe they can get something out of it, they are unlikely to lose the card by allowing a judge to overturn the conviction.
The story has been closely tracked as major news in Israel, but American mainstream media has barely touched the story. Meanwhile, Russian courts continue to be obtuse on the subject, acting less like a civilized society and more like an oppressive regime.
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