MOSCOW - Russian court on Thursday decided to leave unchanged the punishment of an Israeli woman jailed in Russia for seven years over drug offenses.
The 26-year-old Naama Issachar was arrested in April while in transit at a Moscow airport, en route from India to Israel, and accused of carrying 9.5 grams of cannabis. Russian authorities charged her with drug smuggling. She was sentenced to seven years in prison by a Moscow court last October.
The appeal hearing kicked-off with the Israeli confronting the judge by denying she has admitted to the charges against her.
Issachar, who was sitting in a glass cell inside the courtroom, said she was forced to sign documents in the Russian language without knowing what they meant. She speculated that her final confession might have been fabricated, as there were no interpreters in the room at the time she was asked to sign her confession.
The judge said the Israeli yoga instructor partially admitted to illegal possession of drugs and drug smuggling.
This prompted Naama to once again say she has never admitted to charges of drug possession and was not aware of the marijuana that was in her bag at all. “It’s very simple, I didn't buy the marijuana, I didn't receive it from anyone and I didn't put it in my bag,” said Issachar during her hearing.
Her defense team reiterated she had no intention of illegally smuggling the drugs during her journey.
The defense also claimed the translators during Naama’s initial interrogation had poor knowledge of English and couldn’t explain to her what she was being accused of, contributing to the alleged self-incrimination.
“When they made me sign the document that was written in Russian without understanding what was in it, I hand wrote [on the document] that I did not understand Russian,” she said.
Issachar’s team, therefore, asked the court to overturn the sentence as her right to have a fair trial had been violated. Naama then nodded in her cell, indicating she fully supports the defense's claims.
Issachar's mother Yaffa after the verdict vowed to release her daughter.
"No justice, this is Russia," said Yaffa. "We will get you out soon."
First published: 18:13 , 12.19.19