Putin to meet mother of Israeli backpacker jailed in Russia

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with the mother of an Israeli tourist jailed in Russia for carrying a few grams of hashish, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

Putin will meet with Naama Issachar's mother during his visit to Israel on Thursday, his foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters. He noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, will also take part in the meeting.

Ushakov said that the meeting will focus on "the humanitarian aspect" of the issue, but wouldn't say if Putin could pardon Issachar.

Netanyahu long has asked Putin to pardon Issachar, who was arrested in April at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where she was transferring flights while travelling from India to Israel.

Russian authorities said more than nine grams of hashish were found in her luggage. Issachar was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, and a higher court in Moscow upheld the verdict last month.

Asked about the reported Israeli decision to pass control over Alexander's Courtyard in Jerusalem's Old City to Russia to end a long-running controversy, Ushakov said it reflected warm Russia-Israeli relations, but he denied a link between the move and Issachar's fate.

"Legal formalities haven't been finalized yet, but a positive trend is visible," he said about the property transfer. "The process is going in the right direction."

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