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Putin pardons Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar

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Yaffa Issachar, mother of Naama Issachar, arrives at Ben Gurion Airport from Moscow. (Flash90 photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pardoned Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American backpacker who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for drug smuggling.

The Russian news agency Interfax News reported Wednesday that Putin had issued the pardon.

Issachar, 26, had been returning from India to Israel by way of Moscow in April last year when she was detained after authorities said they found nine grams of marijuana in her bag.

She denied the drugs were hers, but in October Russia sentenced her to what many said was an excessive sentence of seven and a half years.

Reports said Russia wanted to use her as a bargaining chip to get Israel to release Alexei Burkov, a Russian hacker who was set to be extradited from the Jewish state to the United States. Israel ended up going through with Burkov’s extradition.

Putin met last week in Israel with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, who both pressed him to pardon Issachar. The Russian leader also met with Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, and told her “everything will be all right.”

Netanyahu is flying to Moscow on Wednesday to talk to Putin about U.S. President Donald Trump’s newly released Israeli-Palestinian peace planBloomberg reported.

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