Putin to meet mother of Israeli backpacker jailed over hash

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

The Russian leader is set to meet with Naama Issachar's mother while he is visiting Israel on Thursday, Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, are also taking part in the meeting that will focus on “the humanitarian aspect” of the case, Ushakov told reporters Wednesday.

He wouldn't say if Putin, who will be in Israel for a Holocaust forum tied to the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, might pardon Issachar.

Netanyahu has asked Putin to pardon the 26-year-old Issachar, who was arrested in April at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where she was transferring flights while travelling from India to Israel. The Israeli prime minister has expressed cautious optimism about her release.

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 and sentence last month.

Asked about the reported Israeli decision to pass control over the Alexander courtyard in Jerusalem's Old City to Russia, Ushakov denied a link to Issachar's fate and said the move reflected warm Russian-Israeli relations.

“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.”

The Alexander courtyard, which was bought by Russia in 1859, is meters from Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is one of several Jerusalem properties Moscow claims, and the dispute over it has been a source of friction between the usually friendly Israel and Russia.