By Yael Levy, ynetnews.com
Two Israelis convicted of drug trafficking were sentenced to death Tuesday by a Thai court. The two men plan to appeal the sentence. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed the report.
Later, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni confirmed that she may intervene in the affair should the sentences not be changed. Ministry officials noted that similar sentences were annulled in the past.
The two Israelis, 34-year-old Vladimir Akronik and 37-year-old Alon Mahluf, were detained in the vicinity of Bangkok’s Kao San Road in possession of 23,000 ecstasy pills about a year ago. Thai media reported that the two arrived in Thailand from Europe and were detained after authorities received information about them from American officials.
Mahluf’s family told Ynet that news of the dire sentence had shocked them. Y, a friend of Mahluf, called on the Israeli authorities to help him. “I call on the prime minister and the foreign minister to prevent this horrid deed. Bring him to Israel,” he said.
Y added that he had visited Mahluf in the Thai prison, and that its conditions were inhumane. “Every day of imprisonment there is like life in prison. There are diseases, 200 people in a room, it’s suffocating and smelly. You can’t describe it, it’s every Israeli’s worst nightmare,” he said.
“He has a family, a wife and two kids. His wife gave birth two months ago. It’s a disaster, we have to bring him back,” Y pleaded. He said his friend was innocent, and that the Thai authorities had arrested him because he had stumbled into the vicinity of a drug dealer.
Alex Avidan, who maintains contact with Israeli prisoners in Thailand, attested to Akronik’s innocence. He told Ynet: “Vladimir arrived in Thailand as an innocent backpacker, and a week later found himself imprisoned on drug trafficking charges. He told me he was entrapped. He said he arrived in Thailand in order to backpack, and someone asked him to hand over a key to someone else. He admitted that he was foolish.”
Avidan said that the death penalty in Thailand is very rare, noting that the gravest offence in the country is the rape of minors, followed by drug trafficking.
“The maximal penalty imposed on drug traffickers is indeed a death sentence, but I know Israelis who are in jail for drug trade offences,” he said. Turning his attention to conditions at prison, Avidan said: “The policy of prisons all across the Far East is that inmates get a cement floor and 180 grams of rice to eat. Everything depends on outside help.”
Avidan also noted that the local Jewish community, headed by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm, was assisting the two men.