On Sunday, Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected the request of Alexei Burkov to be extradited to Russia or in the alternative to be tried in the US but to serve the remainder of his sentence there, instead ordering his extradition to the US to stand trial on charges of cyber fraud.
Mr Burkov’s case has been linked with that of Israeli backpacker Naama Issachar who last month was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment in Russia for possession of marijuana in a move which was viewed by many as an attempt to pressure the Israeli government into a prisoner exchange.
Last week, following the signing of Mr Bukov’s extradition order by Justice Minister Ohana, both Ms Issachar’s family and Mr Burkov’s legal team filed petitions to block his extradition. Ms Issachar’s family subsequently asked the High Court to dismiss their petition later in the week. Ms Issachar’s defence attorney stated that “there has been a development in the law, and in matters between Issachar’s family and diplomatic agents involved in handling her case.”
The alleged use of Ms Issachar as a pawn in these extradition proceedings has led to speculation that Mr Burkov holds greater value to Moscow than previously thought and that he may have been involved in cyber-intelligence. The Russian Embassy in Israel tweeted about the Court’s decision: “This decision constitutes a breach of [Burkov’s] rights as well as Israel’s international obligations.”
The President of the Court in his ruling however stated that the decision to order Mr Bukov’s extradition to the US was made after exhaustive and in-depth consideration of the circumstance. In rejecting Mr Burkov’s request to serve his sentence in Russia following trial in the US, the Court said this request “not based in any law by virtue of which the State of Israel would be required to [order] so.”