TEL AVIV – An American-Israeli woman has been in a Russian jail for four months after airport authorities found nine grams of cannabis in her checked luggage while she was in Moscow for a stopover on her way home to Israel.
According to Naama Issachar’s sister, Liad Gold, the 25-year-old is “falling apart.”
“She is in a Russian prison where no one speaks English and she is at her breaking point.”
Gold told the Jerusalem Post that the guards yell at her but she has no idea what they’re saying. “She gets no information. She has no idea what’s happening. She’s completely in the dark. How can she mentally survive in those conditions?”
Issachar was waiting for a connecting flight to Israel after traveling around India for three months — a rite of passage for many Israelis after serving in the military. She was stopped by police as she boarded the flight to Tel Aviv.
Issachar reportedly acknowledged that the bag was hers but that she didn’t know how the cannabis got inside.
“She was backpacking for three months through India,” Gold told Fox News. “She slept in so many hostels and guest houses and was around so many different people. Her mistake was that she didn’t properly clean out her bag. But when they found it her mouth dropped open. She had no idea it was there.”
“She’s absolutely wrongfully charged,” Issachar’s sister added.
Initially charged with cannabis possession, which carries a one month detention, the charge was upgraded in May to smuggling drugs – a far graver offence which carries with it a sentence of three to 10 years in prison.
In Israel, authorities are unlikely to prosecute an individual for possession of 15 grams or less.
Since then, Issachar’s detention has been extended six times and she has been been transferred to different Russian detention facilities and prisons three times.
Issachar has been allowed a total of four visits and two phone calls by her mother, who has been in Russia since her daughter’s arrest on April 9.
Issachar’s attorney was barred from giving a statement in a district court in Moscow on Tuesday, with the judge ruling that her defense would be heard in September.
According to Gold, both the U.S. and Israeli embassies as well as Israel’s foreign ministry have said their “hands are tied” and that they cannot get involved in the legal proceedings in Russia.
Issachar, who was born and raised in Fair Lawn, NJ before moving to Israel at 16, was prevented from talking to her family at the hearing.
“Unfortunately, we were not allowed to exchange a word with her but to look at her sad face,” the Jerusalem Post cited the family as saying. They called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to help us with his colleagues in the Russian government to remove Naama from the nightmare she has been under arrest for over four months.”
Gold told Fox News: “My goal is to ask her country, whether it’s Israel or America, to please get involved and help bring her home. I am begging the government of America and the government of Israel, please help bring my baby sister home before she faces an unjust sentencing.”