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Israeli couple jailed in Turkey for eight days on spying charges released, back home this morning

Good news as intense diplomatic efforts prevail in securing release of Natali and Mordi Oknin

Natali and Mordi Oknin on a flight home to Israel after being released from jail in Turkey (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israelis woke up to good news this morning as Mordy and Natali Oknin landed in Israel after eight days of being jailed in Turkey on espionage charges.

The Israeli tourists were arrested in Istanbul last week after taking a picture of the presidential palace.

The Israeli government and the Mossad intervened for the release of the couple who Turkish authorities accused of spying for Israel.

Escorted back home on a private plane sent by the Israeli government, the couple landed at 6 a.m. at Ben-Gurion Airport and thanked the myriad of leaders involved in obtaining their release including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the Foreign Ministry staff, President Isaac Herzog “and the entire nation of Israel.”

Bennett and Lapid thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his cooperation. They two also spoke with the couple’s family members while they waited at the airport.

Bennett spoke with Shiraz, the couple’s daughter.

“You see? I told you that we are doing everything, and indeed we did everything,” Bennett said. “You were a wonderful partner. The family’s restraint was very critical in these days.”

Lapid called Natali Oknin’s brother, Eran Peri.

“He told me they’re coming home and that we must keep it a secret. The fear was that the legal process would go on. We thought they would be sentenced to 10-15 years. At the same time, we knew the government was doing everything to return them,” Peri told Kan public broadcaster.

While in custody, the couple were held separately, and were given limited access to their lawyer and Israeli diplomatic officials.

Both of the Oknins are bus drivers in Israel.

Israel and Turkey have official diplomatic relations since 1949 and Turkey is a popular vacation destination for Israelis. But since 2009, relations have taken a downward spiral between the two nations who both in recent years recalled their ambassadors. Late last year, Erdoğan appointed a new ambassador to the Jewish state and publicly called for moving toward “a better point” in relations with Israel.

Read more: TURKEY

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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