A little marijuana, and Naama Issachar became a political pawn. The Israeli-Amercan was flying through Moscow in April when authorities arrested her for allegedly carrying 9.5 grams of pot in her bags, the New York Times reports. Expecting a slap on the wrist, the 26-year-old from New Jersey was accused of smuggling and sentenced Friday to 7 1/2 years. "We couldn't understand why she was being treated like this," her mother Yaffa tells the Washington Post. Seems the answer lies in WhatsApp messages Yaffa and her other daughter began receiving in August from a man who said he was a friend of Alexei Burkov, a Russian arrested in Israel in 2015.
Burkov had been indicted that year in Virginia on multiple counts after apparently trying to sell over 150,000 credit-card numbers to undercover investigators, per Haaretz. Now he's being held in Israel and faces extradition to America. "I thought he was crazy at first," says Yaffa of her mysterious texter. "The message was very threatening, telling me my daughter would only be released if Burkov was released by Israel." Moscow wants to swap the two prisoners, per an Israeli official, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has discussed Issachar's case directly with Vladimir Putin. But Burkov's extradition has already been approved by Israel's Supreme Court. No word yet on whether Washington will get involved. (Read more Russia stories.)