Russian pensioner pardoned by Israeli president

A 71-year-old Russian woman who was convicted of aiding in the kidnap of her own granddaughter has been released from an Israeli prison. She came back to Moscow on Saturday morning.

Isabella Belfer was pardoned by the Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Isabella's daughter, Marina Belfer, says she is very grateful to everyone who has helped: "to the Russian Government, starting with President; to members of Knesset, members of Israeli consulate section in Moscow, Russia; and of course to Advisor to President Peres."

"If not for him, pardon would’ve not happened,"  she added . "He was in charge of all these negotiations."

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed “sincere satisfaction” over the Israeli decision.

“This case has attained wide public resonance both in Russia and Israel,” the ministry announcement said. “The questions about Belfer’s fate have been addressed several times during Russian–Israeli negotiations at the top level, including at the bilateral summit on August 18, 2009.”

Belfer was sentenced to six years in prison in 2007 for helping her daughter take her six-year-old child out of Israel and bring her to Moscow illegally.

The charges were brought by her former Israeli son-in-law. The court was adamant on a custodial penalty, despite her age and ill health. Isabella Belfer also has an ailing 94-year-old mother in Israel that she has to look after.

It was the first time Israel had jailed someone in their seventies for such a long period.

Her daughter's failed marriage created a headache for the whole family. After the divorce, Marina Belfer kept custody of her child. She says that, in 2001, she could take her daughter to visit relatives in the US.

Isabella also went on the trip, but instead of returning directly from the States all three went to Russia.

“[Ex-husband Yaron Rotem] used to scoff and intimidate our daughter so much,” Marina Belfer told RT. “She became ill with asthma because her nerves got wrecked. He used to lock her up, beat her and give her food she was allergic to – just to intimidate me. He is mentally ill.”

Mr. Rotem did file a lawsuit in Israel and when Isabella returned in 2006 to help her 96-year-old mother living there she was detained, put under house arrest and later put behind bars.

The grandmother was first sentenced to six years but later her prison term was reduced to three.

Finally, President Shimon Peres personally got involved, ordering for her to be released from custody sooner.

“I have so many feelings,” Isabella Belfer said. “But the main feeling is that I don't want to go back to prison.”

The case had been discussed at the highest levels. According to Israeli media, the country's president made the decision to release Isabella Belfer after he was allegedly asked to do so by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev personally.

One of the conditions for Isabella's release was that Marina's ex-husband would be able to see their daughter.

Udit Corinaldi-Sirkis, Legal Advisor for President Shimon Peres explained, “As you can see, the relationship between the mother and the father is very difficult, but in the end they managed to reach an agreement. The father can now visit his daughter in Russia.”

Another condition for Isabella's release was that her former son-in-law would agree.

“Lots of people told me that nothing will come out of this story,” said Yaron Rotem. “Our meetings were not simple. I hope I have succeeded in making my daughter curious about me, although it wasn't easy.”

Israeli authorities say they have managed to help Isabella and the whole family. But Marina says her daughter still remembers how her father treated her and stresses one thing she is definitely not curious about – him.