Arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana in Russia in April, American-born Israeli citizen Naama Issacher was freed on January 30 by President Vladimir Putin after spending nine months in jail.
Issacher, who was born in New Jersey and is 26 years old, was returning from a trip to India to Israel on a flight that had a stop in Moscow. She received a 7.5 year sentence on October 11 on a trumped-up smuggling charge and was detained in a prison 50 miles outside of Moscow. Issacher's family moved to Israel when she was in high school.
It was reported that Russia was using Issacher as a pawn to get Israel to release Alexei Burkov, a hacker arrested at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in 2015 who's scheduled to be extradicted to the U.S. where he was arrested in Virginia for financial cyber crimes, also in 2015. When Russian officials decided to negotiate an exchange for Burkov, the charge was changed from possession to smuggling.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded with Putin for months to release Issacher. His office stated that “there is no possibility of preventing the extradition of Burkov.”
Following Issacher's release, Netayahuhu directed his comment to Putin: "Russia and Israel relations have never been better. Thank you for your leadership in this."
Netanyahu may not be in office for much longer. He has been charged with bribery and fraud in a corruption scandal. The next Israeli elections will be held in March.
This article was originally posted on Oct. 14, 2019 and updated on Jan. 30.