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Next 48 hours 'critical' for Israeli couple detained in Turkey


clock 3 min read

Turkish national flag on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul on November 8, 2020.
Yasin AKGUL / AFPTurkish national flag on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul on November 8, 2020.

Natalie and Mordy Oknin risk remaining in detention in Turkey for years

The next 48 hours will be "critical" for securing the release of an Israeli couple detained in Turkey on suspicion of spying after photographing the presidential palace, Israeli media reported on Sunday, citing officials.

According to these sources, if the incident is not resolved within this timeframe, Natalie and Mordy Oknin arrested on Thursday risk remaining in detention in Turkey for years.

The case threatens to increase diplomatic tensions between Israel and Turkey.

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Prosecutors accuse the couple, bus drivers from central Israel, of photographing the home of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and of taking pictures of adjacent security checkpoints and cameras, allegedly highlighting them before sending them to a third party.

The couple insists that they only took the pictures to send to their family back home in Israel, who only found out about the arrests when the couple did not return to Israel as planned.

Israel has firmly denied the allegations made against the couple.

"The foreign minister, other officials and myself discussed all of this over the weekend. These are two innocent citizens who have, by mistake, found themselves in a complex situation," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

"I spoke with the family yesterday and we are doing everything to bring this issue to a solution," Bennett continued.

Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is leading the effort to secure their release and is in talks with Israel's consular representative in Turkey's capital Ankara. 

Within Israel, there is increasing suspicion among some officials that the arrests might have been made to secure political points, with Turkey seeking to use the couple as bargaining chips with Jerusalem.

The incident comes amid increasing tensions between Israel and Turkey after last month's arrests of 15 Mossad (national intelligence agency) agents, accused of running a network of Israeli spies in Turkey.