An Israeli couple were arrested on suspicion of espionage during a trip to Istanbul. Natalie and Mordi Oknin have been spotted photographing Erdogan’s Palace – but as the media stresses – the building has long been unused as a presidential residence.
Israel called on Turkey to release an Israeli couple accused of espionage by taking photos of the presidential residence in Istanbul. Natalie and Mordi Oknin – a pair of bus drivers from Modiin (a town located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) – were arrested last week after being reported by employees of a nearby restaurant.
Israel calls on Turkey to release a couple accused of espionage
A Turkish judge decided to keep the Israeli couple in custody pending trial. The marriage lawyer judged the allegations to be “unfounded”. Nir Yaslovitzh in an interview with the Haaretz daily stressed that “their only crime is to photograph Erdogan’s palace during an innocent boat trip”.
The couple photographed Dolmabahce Palace – a building that has not been used as a presidential residence for decades, although – as the BBC supposes – part of it is used as the presidential office.
“These are innocent civilians who have been caught up in this situation by mistake,” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday. “I spoke to the couple’s family yesterday and we are doing everything we can to solve this problem,” he added.
Israeli authorities: the arrested couple did not work for an Israeli agency
The Israeli president said he was “convinced” of the couple’s innocence and stressed that neither of the two worked for an Israeli agency. In turn, Foreign Minister Jair Lapid tweeted that Israeli officials are working “around the clock” to free the Oknin state.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained since 2010, when Israel raided a Turkish ship trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Last month, Turkish media reported that 15 men had been arrested by the authorities on suspicion of spying for the Mossad, an Israeli intelligence agency.
The former Mossad deputy director denied that Natalie and Mordi Oknin were Israeli spies.
Main photo source: ARIEL SCHALIT / PAP / EPA