Israel’s High Court of Justice on Sunday ordered a temporary postponement of the extradition to the United States of Russian IT specialist Aleksey Burkov, who the family of an Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia on drug-related charges had hoped would be used to secure her release.
Burkov has been in Israeli custody since 2015. He is wanted in the United States for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from American consumers in a massive credit-card scheme.
Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested in April after 9.5 grams of marijuana were found in her carry-on bag during a stopover in Moscow. She was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for drug trafficking.
Her harsh sentence, even though she had argued that she never intended to sell drugs in Russia or even to leave the airport, has led supporters to believe that Issachar was being used as a pawn to secure the transfer of Burkov to Russia.
Last week, Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed Burkov’s extradition order over the protests of Issachar’s family. Ohana said he signed the order only after careful deliberation.
“I suggest not creating a very dangerous precedent here—that each time there is a country that wants to have someone extradited, it captures an Israeli and makes a scapegoat of them,” Ohana told Kan public radio last month, in regard to the possibility of a prisoner swap with Russia.
Following the signing of the extradition order, both Burkov and Issachar’s family submitted petitions to the High Court against the extradition.
The court on Sunday ruled that the extradition would be postponed until Burkov’s petition is discussed and a ruling issued.