Israeli Couple Arrested in Turkey on Suspicion of Espionage After Taking Photos of Erdogan’s Palace

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Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

A Turkish court has extended custody of an Israeli couple who were detained Friday on suspicion of espionage after being caught taking photographs of the Istanbul palace of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, deemed an illegal act.

The couple, identified as Mordy and Natali Oknin, and their family have continued to deny allegations by the Turkish media that they are spies, saying that they had no idea it was illegal to take photos of Erdogan’s residence.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the two are “innocent civilians who have been mistakenly caught up in a complex situation.”

“I spoke yesterday with the family and we are doing everything to resolve the issue. I asked that the family stay strong, despite the great difficulty. We are with you,” he said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

He reiterated that the two had no affiliations with any Israeli agency.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is liaising with Israel’s consular representative in Ankara for the couple’s release.

The pair, both bus drivers, took photos of Erdogan’s palace from the Camlica Tower, a telecommunications tower in Istanbul with observation decks, and sent them via the WhatsApp messaging app to their Israeli family in Israel with the caption, “Such a nice house.”

According to an unidentified source with knowledge of Turkey’s legal system told Israel’s Channel 12: “It is clear that this was a political, rather than a legal, decision… It is clear that elements in Erdogan’s circle exerted pressure and briefed him as if these were Mossad agents on an Israeli mission.”

In the days ensuing since the couple’s arrest, images appeared of other people taking pictures of Erdogan’s palace, Israeli media reported, but no more arrests have been made.

 

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