Turkey, Israeli couple accused of espionage released
Turkey–The Turkish regime released two Israeli spouses, Mordechai and Natalie Oknin, arrested eight days ago for photographing President Erdogan’s palace in Istanbul and later suspected of spying. The two returned to Tel Aviv this morning on a private flight organized by the Israeli foreign ministry.
Messages of thanks to President Erdogan and the Turkish government were immediately published by the head of state Isaac Herzog, by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and by the foreign minister Yair Lapid. “I thank the president of Turkey and his government for their cooperation,” Herzog wrote on Twitter immediately after the Oknin couple returned to Tel Aviv from Turkey, where they went for tourism two weeks ago.
“I also thank Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid for their commitment to freeing the detainees.” Words of thanks to the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government were also expressed in a joint statement by Bennett and Lapid, concluding days of tension between the two countries.
Natalie and Mordi Oknin, both bus drivers, were in Istanbul to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Instead, they posted a selfie on Facebook in front of the Dolmabahce building, no longer hosting the presidential residence since 1923. Hence the accusation: suspected spying.
The arrest came after the complaint of a waiter from the restaurant of the imposing Çamlica tower, the highest vantage point in the city inaugurated in recent months, from where the couple allegedly took the offending selfie. The story only emerged last Thursday when the Oknin daughter from Israel alerted local authorities, losing her parents’ track. Although Israel denied that the two were in the service of its intelligence, the charges eventually dropped.
The incident has raised many doubts in Europe, which questions whether it is no longer possible to take photos in front of historical attractions in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey—after the conversion of Agia Sophia into a mosque, now taking pictures in front of historical sites in Istanbul risks being arrested. And be careful to be journalists; the capture could already take place at the airport.