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Russia’s Selective Justice Towards Israel

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Russia's Selective Justice Towards Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with Naama Issachar’s mother, Yaffa Issachar. Click to see full-size

On January 27th, the Kremlin confirmed that an Israeli citizen, Naama Issachar, sentenced in Russia to seven and a half years in prison for a drug smuggling, filed a petition for pardon with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced that the petition was filed.

“We know that [Issachar’s pardon] appeal addressed to the head of state is ready,” Peskov said “Currently, the necessary legal procedures are being carried out for the president to make a decision on this matter in the near future.”

Prior to that, on the same day, the Moscow commission for pardons unanimously approved the release plea by the Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia on drug smuggling charges.

“We received Naama’s plea for pardon today. She partially admits her guilt. But she pleads not guilty on smuggling charges. She had no such malicious intent. Hence, after considering her character reference from the prison, which is positive, the commission took a decision to satisfy this plea for pardon,” said Ekaterina Semyonova, the commission’s deputy chairperson, TASS reported.

The request went to the Moscow region governor, Andrei Vorobyev on January 28th, but just in case she submitted it to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well.

Immediately after receiving it, the Governor of Moscow Andrey Yuryevich Vorobyov signed Naama Issachar’s pardon request.

Issachar, 27, was sentenced by Russia to 7.5 years in prison after nearly 10 grams of marijuana were found in her luggage during a layover in a Moscow airport in April 2019. She denied smuggling drugs, noting she had not sought to enter Russia during the layover on her way to Israel from India, and had no access to her luggage during her brief stay in the Russian airport.

Issachar’s mother met on January 23rd with Putin. She said the Russian leader told her he would return her daughter home.

This would be a precedent, as no Russian President has ever granted a pardon to a foreign-citizen convict.

In December, a Russian court rejected Issachar’s appeal, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he remained optimistic she would be released soon.

According to Israeli media, Russia has asked Israel to transfer a piece of Russian Orthodox Church property near the Old City of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Kremlin, as a goodwill gesture ahead of Issachar’s release.

In separate reports, Israeli media alleged that Russia wanted to exchange Issachar’s freedom for that of Aleksey Burkov, a 29-year-old Russian citizen, who pleaded guilty to running a website that helped people commit more than $20 million in credit-card fraud. But this falls entirely in the area of speculation.

Regardless of what the situation around the possible pardon is, this is an interesting case. Naama Issachar evidently carried drug in her luggage and was detained for it. But she may be released, because of the good relations between Russia and Israel.

A detention at a Russian airport due to individuals carrying small amounts of drugs (in the area of 1-2 grams of cannabis) are not uncommon. Then, does Issachar’s possible release create a precedent that all of these foreigners and, also, Russian citizens should be released?

Since carrying 1-2 grams of a light drug is a much less of a crime than carrying 10 grams of drugs. The Israeli national, a proven and convicted criminal is about to be released, due to the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and their conversations with Putin who visited Israel on January 23rd and spoke with them, in addition to Issachar’s mother.

And this Russian government tendency of selective justice doesn’t stop there.

It should be recalled that in September 2018, Israeli hostile actions above Syria led to the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane. All 15 people on board died.

The Russian military accused Israel for being responsible for the downing of the airplane, and provided ample evidence in the form of radar records and other information. Tel Aviv simply said it disagreed with Russia’s version of events and the entire situation faded into obscurity with no apparent action undertaken by the Russian government.

Moscow supplied the S-300 missile defense system to Syria, but it has never been effectively used, despite Israel frequently carrying out airstrikes on various positions in the country and despite numerous warnings by Russia that have led to nothing. Tel Aviv was allowed to carry out all of its actions, and Russia has since provided a bit of empty rhetoric and has undertaken no effective actions.

In comparison, in 2015, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet downed a Russian Su-24M attack aircraft. The weapon systems officer survived, the pilot was shot and killed by the “moderate rebels,” supported by Turkey near the border.

Ankara was immediately subject to heavy sanctions and diplomatic pressure from Russia. Later, Turkish policy towards the Russian presence in Syria dramatically shifted from being quite negative, towards being quite positive. Turkey began a close cooperation with the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance. Nonetheless, a part of the sanctions against Turkey remains in force.

So there is ample evidence of selective justice, which keeps happening, with reasons that are undisclosed and come down to speculation.

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