Turkey Releases Israeli Couple Detained for Photographing Erdogan's Palace

The couple, who were arrested in Turkey last week for suspected espionage after photographing the Dolmabahce Palace, arrived in Israel. PM Bennett thanked President Erdogan

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Natalie and Mordi Oknin in their home in Modi’in on Thursday.
Natalie and Mordi Oknin in their home in Modi’in on Thursday.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Israeli couple arrested in Turkey last week for suspected espionage have been released early Thursday and returned to Israel.  

Natalie and Mordi Oknin were arrested last week after photographing Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, which has not been used as a presidential residence for decades.

Upon their arrival home, the couple expressed gratitude and thanked those who had worked to bring them home. "We want to thank the people of Israel and just want to be with our family," they said.

Natalie and Mordi Oknin, before take-off, on the plane back to Israel with Foreign Ministry officialsCredit: Israel Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog thanked "the President of Turkey and his government for their cooperation."

Bennett is expected to speak with Erdogan on Thursday, after the couple's release. It would be the first conversation between an Israeli and Turkish head of states since 2013.

Natalie and Mordi Oknin arriving in Israel, this morning.Credit: Twitter account of Naftali Bennett
Mordi and Natalie Oknin, who were held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage, arrive to their home in the Israeli city of Modiin, Thursday morning.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP
Natalie Oknin surrounded by family members on Thursday.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP

A source familiar with the details of the detainment said the court granted the couple's appeal on Wednesday, as the diplomatic efforts to bring about their release were ongoing. The event that began as a legal event also ended as such and not as a political crisis.

While Turkey was not reciprocated by Israel for releasing the couple, a diplomatic source expects Jerusalem to return in kind.  

On Wednesday afternoon, the couple's family was updated on the progress made and asked to keep quiet. 

Mordi Oknin upon his return to his home in Modi’in on Thursday.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP

Officials in Israel believe that the couple's release could improve diplomatic ties between Ankara and Jerusalem, an improvement Erdogan has been striving for since the formation of the Bennett-Lapid government. Thus far, Erdogan's efforts were met with a relative suspicion by Israel.  

Israel requested the help of a third country last week in its effort to secure the couple's release.

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