Issachar’s appeal was set to be discussed last week, but was eventually postponed by the Russian authorities.

Naama Issachar, a young Israeli woman who has been incarcerated in Russia on charges of smuggling drugs. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Naama Issachar, a young Israeli woman who has been incarcerated in Russia on charges of smuggling drugs. (photo credit: Courtesy)


Israeli-American Naama Issachar denied confessing to smuggling drugs, in the appeal of her seven-year sentence before a court in Moscow on Thursday.

At the same time in Israel, high-level Russian and Israeli diplomats held a meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the matter of Issachar, as well as a recent increase in Israelis being detained at airports or not being allowed to enter Russia.

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.

תיעוד נוסף של נעמה יששכר בתא הזכוכית במהלך הדיון בערעורה בבית המשפט@VeredPelman

— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 19, 2019

Her lawyers argued that she did not know that she bought drugs or that they were in her luggage.

In addition, they said she could not have been trying to smuggle drugs into Russia, because she was only there for a connecting flight and did not intend to remain.

They said Issachar was searched illegally and misled into signing a confession.

Ahead of the hearing, Issachar’s mother said she “had a difficult night, but I am still optimistic and believe Naama will be freed today…at the end of the hearing.

“I hope the judges will bring justice to light. We will celebrate Hanukkah together and light the first candle in Israel” on Sunday, she said.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Israel Katz told KAN Bet that he hopes Issachar will be returned home before Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Israel on January 23.

Katz referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration at a Likud event earlier this week that he will bring Issachar home: “He immediately clarified that he does not give Putin instructions.”

On Wednesday night, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said negotiations are ongoing and that they will take some time.

Also Thursday, Israeli and Russian diplomats met at the Foreign Ministry to discuss consular matters. The Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director-General for Eurasia Gary Koren and head of the Consular Department Stella Rapp took part in the meeting, as did Population, Immigration and Borders Authority Director-General Shlomo Mor-Yosef. The Russian delegation was led by its Foreign Ministry’s Director of the Consular Department Ivan Volynkin.

Issachar was on the agenda for the meeting, as well as the matter of 46 Israelis, including children, who were detained in a Moscow airport for six hours on Wednesday. This came after eight businessmen were detained overnight in a Russian airport last week.

Russia and Israel enjoy a visa-waiver program, and citizens of both countries should, theoretically, be able to easily travel between them.

The Russian Embassy said in response to the incident that over 5,700 Russian tourists were not allowed into Israel since the beginning of 2019, averaging 20 per day, most of whom, the embassy argued, do not fit the profile of someone who would illegally stay in Israel to work.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post