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November 14, 2021 7:48 pm
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Israeli Couple Detained in Turkey ‘Innocent’ of Espionage Charges, Says Bennett

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem August 1, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that an Israeli couple detained in Turkey on espionage charges after allegedly taking pictures of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home in Istanbul are “innocent.”

“These are two innocent civilians who have been mistakenly caught up in a complex situation,” Bennett said at weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. “We are doing everything to resolve the issue.”

Over the weekend, Bennett rebuffed allegations that the couple — Natali and Mody Oknin — are spies after Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that they were detained on charges of political and military espionage.

The couple, “as has already been emphasized by officials, do not work for any Israeli agency,” Bennett stated.

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The prime minister assured that the “most senior echelons in Israel, led by the Foreign Ministry have been dealing with the matter throughout the weekend, and will continue to do so without respite, in order to resolve it as soon as possible.”

“I spoke with the family. I asked that the family stay strong, despite the great difficulty. We are with you. Beyond this, it would not be proper to expand at the moment,” he added.

The Israeli couple travelled to Istanbul for a birthday trip and was expected to return on Tuesday. The woman is said to have taken pictures of Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul without knowing that it was illegal, and to have shared them with her family in a WhatsApp group.

They were arrested after an employee told the police that the couple and a Turkish citizen took pictures of Erdogan’s home from Istanbul’s Camlica telecommunications tower and showed them to each other, Anadolu reported. Camlica is the tallest tower in Istanbul with observation decks and restaurants.

An Istanbul court on Friday ordered that the detention of the married couple and the Turkish national will be extended for an additional 20 days, pending trial for political and military espionage.

In October, a group of 15 people alleged to have spied for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were arrested in Turkey, according to a report in Turkish media. The supposed agents were said to have provided Mossad with information about foreign students from universities in Turkey, with a focus on those who could work for the defense industry.

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