Natali and Mordi Oaknin, who had been jailed for photographing the Turkish president’s palace, returned to Israel on Thursday.
https://www.jpost.com-By TZVI JOFFRE
Natali and Mordi Oaknin on their way home to Israel after being released from jail in Turkey photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
Natali and Mordi Oaknin, the Israeli couple jailed in Istanbul for photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home, have been released and returned to Israel on Thursday morning.
“After joint efforts towards Turkey, the couple Mordi and Natali Oaknin were released from custody and are on their way to Israel at this very moment,” read an announcement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday morning. “We thank the president of Turkey and his government for their cooperation and welcome the Oaknin couple.”
Bennett and Lapid thanked the Oaknin family for standing firm in the “complex situation” and for cooperating openly and warmly with the Foreign Ministry. They also expressed special thank to Israeli President Isaac Herzog for his efforts to bring the couple home.
Herzog also welcomed the couple back home, tweeting “Natali and Mordi – how good it is that you came home. [I] warmly embrace you and your family.” Herzog congratulated Bennett and Lapid and everyone who worked to free the couple and thanked Erdogan and his government for their cooperation.
The Oaknins, Egged bus drivers who live in Modi’in, took the photo of Erdogan’s palace while in the Camlica Tower, the tallest tower in Europe that opened earlier this year. A waitress heard them talking about it and reported them to the police, who arrested them and a Turkish friend who accompanied them on their visit.
Israel’s consul in Istanbul, Ronen Levi, visited Natali, and Consul-General Udi Eitam visited Mordy on Tuesday. The diplomats also met with prison authorities to ensure the couple was being held in suitable living conditions. They gave them clothing and supplies.
On Tuesday, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had accused the couple of “military and political espionage,” raising concerns that the issue would be a drawn-out affair.
Turkish media claimed that the couple shared the photo they took in a WhatsApp group and wrote down technical information about the tower, but the Oaknin’s daughter, Shiraz Ben-Harosh, told Israeli media she did not receive any photos of the building.
Turkish police originally recommended deporting the Oaknins, and notified Israel of its plans. However, the prosecution charged them with espionage. A court had on Friday extended their remand for at least 20 days, as the prosecution prepared its case for a trial.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.