Turkey releases Israeli couple detained on espionage charges

The couple was arrested after taking pictures of President Erdogan’s residence atop Istanbul’s tallest building.

Anadolu news agency said an employee tipped off police after seeing the couple take photos of the residence from the tower's restaurant [File: Yasin Akgul/AFP]

An Israeli couple held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage has been released.

Mordi and Natali Oknin were detained after visiting the newly opened Camlica Tower – Istanbul’s tallest building. They were freed on Thursday.

A court in the city charged them with “political and military espionage” for allegedly taking a photograph of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home, state news agency Anadolu reported.

An employee tipped off the police after seeing the couple take pictures of the residence from the tower’s restaurant, it said.

A Turkish national, who was with the couple, was also arrested on charges of political and military espionage.

The Oknins denied the charges, while Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted the couple was not employees of any spy agency.

“After joint efforts with Turkey, Mordi and Natali Oknin were released from prison and are on their way home to Israel,” the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

Relatives and supporters greeted the couple as they arrived back in the central Israeli city of Modiin, footage aired by public television showed.

Bennett said he and Lapid “thanked the president of Turkey and his government for their cooperation and look forward to welcoming the couple back home”.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained, especially since ambassadors were withdrawn in 2018 after the deaths of Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

Source: News Agencies