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Turkey releases Israeli couple detained for photographing president’s palace

This article originally appeared on Haaretz and was reprinted here with permission.

The Israeli couple arrested in Turkey last week for suspected espionage have been released early Thursday and returned to Israel.

Natalie and Mordi Oknin were arrested last week after photographing Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, which has not been used as a presidential residence for decades.

Upon their arrival home, the couple expressed gratitude and thanked those who had worked to bring them home. “We want to thank the people of Israel and just want to be with our family,” they said.

The Israeli couple arrested in Turkey last week for suspected espionage have been released early Thursday and returned to Israel.

Natalie and Mordi Oknin were arrested last week after photographing Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, which has not been used as a presidential residence for decades.

Natalie and Mordi Oknin, before take-off, on the plane back to Israel with Foreign Ministry officials. (Israel Foreign Ministry)

Natalie and Mordi Oknin, before take-off, on the plane back to Israel with Foreign Ministry officials. (Israel Foreign Ministry)

Upon their arrival home, the couple expressed gratitude and thanked those who had worked to bring them home. “We want to thank the people of Israel and just want to be with our family,” they said.

A source familiar with the details of the detainment said the court granted the couple’s appeal on Wednesday, as the diplomatic efforts to bring about their release were ongoing. The event that began as a legal event also ended as such and not as a political crisis.

While Turkey was not reciprocated by Israel for releasing the couple, a diplomatic source expects Jerusalem to return in kind.

On Wednesday afternoon, the couple’s family was updated on the progress made and asked to keep quiet.

Officials in Israel believe that the couple’s release could improve diplomatic ties between Ankara and Jerusalem, an improvement Erdogan has been striving for since the formation of the Bennett-Lapid government. Thus far, Erdogan’s efforts were met with a relative suspicion by Israel.

Israel requested the help of a third country last week in its effort to secure the couple’s release.

This article originally appeared on Haaretz and was reprinted here with permission.

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