24 Jan 2020 15:13

FJCR doesn't link Issachar's possible pardon to handover of Alexander Metochion to Russia

MOSCOW. Jan 24 (Interfax) - President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) Alexander Boroda has said he would not link a possible decision to pardon Israeli citizen Naama Issachar, convicted by a Russian court of drug smuggling, to the handover of the Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem to Russia.

"The process of handing over the metochion to Russia will take longer than one day or one month [...]. Of course, it is a good, friendly gesture on the part of Israel, but I wouldn't link this directly to the pardon/non-pardon and the fate of one Israeli woman, who has found herself in this not very pleasant situation. I wouldn't link these steps," Boroda said at a press conference in Moscow on Friday in reply to relevant questions from reporters.

At the same time, he said that he could not speak with absolute certainty about the various political and technical procedures related to Issachar.

Naama Issachar, 25, who has United States and Israeli citizenship, was detained in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in April 2019. She was changing planes in Moscow on her way from Delhi to Tel Aviv when security services detected nine grams of hashish in her checked-in baggage.

On October 11, 2019, the Moscow region's Khimki City Court found Issachar guilty of smuggling a considerable quantity of drugs and illegal possession of narcotic substances and sentenced her to seven years and six months in a penitentiary. The Moscow Regional Court upheld Issachar's conviction on December 19, 2019.

Issachar denies involvement in drug smuggling and possession. She told the Moscow Regional Court that she did not buy the hashish and was unaware of having the drug in her bag. Issachar also said that her earlier "admission" of drugs possession was the result of poor translation and that, in fact, she had only agreed about the fact that the drugs were found in her backpack.

Issachar's defense team is preparing to appeal to the Cassation Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

The Israeli president and prime minister and Issachar's mother asked Putin to pardon Naama.

The Jerusalem Post reported earlier, citing an official document, that at the end of 2019, Israel had resolved the issue of the metochion's legal status in Russia's favor by handing it the rights to the site.

The Alexander Metochion is situated in the Old Town of Jerusalem, in close proximity to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is an archeological and architectural compound standing on land bought by Russian Emperor Alexander III in 1859.The compound was built by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in 1896.

The controversy surrounding its ownership began after the 1917 revolution. At present, the compound is managed by a society led by German citizen Nikolai Worontsow-Hoffmann. It is officially known as the Russian Orthodox Society of the Holy Land and is registered in Munich. The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society of Russia, chaired by former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, is contesting the ownership of the metochion.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the abovementioned document in possession of the newspaper Maariv successfully resolves this historical dispute.