American-Israeli Woman Detained In Russia For 4 Months After Pot Found In Suitcase

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Who Is Naama Issachar? New Details On Israeli Woman Detained In Russia For 4 Months After Pot Found In Suitcase

Naama Issachar, 25, is an American-Israeli soldier currently incarcerated in a Russian detention center for alleged marijuana smuggling.

This all began back in April when Issachar was heading back home to Tel Aviv from a three-month backpacking trip. She was boarding her connecting flight to Moscow when Russian police discovered 9.2 ounces of marijuana in her checked bags and immediately charged her for possession. Issachar has been detained for four months and what was originally meant to be a one-month sentence for possession, later turned into a drug-smuggling charge. Issachar was unaware of the marijuana in her bag and has no idea how it had gotten there.

In an attempt to seek justice, Issachar’s family has taken action and has been able to reach both the US and Israeli government but have only gotten so far.

The judge has postponed the court hearing until September 3.

Who exactly is Naama Issachar and why are these charges not being taken lightly? 

1. She could face up to 10 years of jail time for marijuana smuggling

Her arrest was initially charged for possession, but the charge was later changed to smuggling narcotics. According to the Jerusalem Post, possession “usually entails a one-month period of detention, a fine, and a ban from entering the country.” However, jail time for smuggling is far more serious and can range anywhere from three-10 years.

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2. She was returning from a backpacking trip after serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

According to Heavy, after serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a “Lone Soldier,” for three years, Issachar chose to go on a three-month backpacking trip through India, in January.  A backpacking trip is a rite of passage many Israeli soldiers go on to celebrate the end of their military service. This trip is viewed as a positive send-off before entering the workforce or college.

3. Her court date will be September 3

At Issachar’s court hearing on August 20, the judge postponed her court date until September 3 and ordered that she not receive any phone calls or visits from her family. Since her arrest, Issachar has been transferred three times through various Russian facilities. She does not speak or understand any Russian.

4. It’s been difficult for Issachar to communicate with her family

According to Heavy, her mother Yaffa Issachar “has only been allowed to see her daughter four times and speak with her on the phone twice in four-and-a-half months.” However, Russian prisoners are legally supposed to be granted two visits per month and one phone call per week. The Issachar family contacted both the US and Israeli government but intervening in the legal process in Russia was out of their control.

5. Her family started a petition seeking justice

With over 2,000 signatures, the Issachar family's petition is fighting for Naama’s release and aiming to create awareness in her unjust treatment. You can also follow updates on the status of Issachar via the “WeWantNaama” support pages, provided by the family, on Facebook and Instagram.

Here is an excerpt from the petition:

Our Naama is held in terrible conditions, without her rights!

During her four months in custody, she was denied the following conditions:

• Her mother's visit: Under local law, this is her right twice a month, but she was only allowed to visit her 3 times. In early July, the prosecutor decided not to allow her mother to visit her or call, no explanation was given.

• Translation of her Inquiry: She did not receive a translator until after the US Consul intervened sharply.

• There are hardly any English-speaking people there, so it is difficult for her to explain or understand anything.

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Elizabeth Ward is a writing student finishing her bachelor’s at the University of Louisville. You can find her painting, dancing to her heart's content, or binging the Office.