Married Israeli couple arrested for spying in Turkey after taking photos of Erdogan’s palace

·2-min read
Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid denied the couple work for an ‘Israeli agency’  (EPA)
Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid denied the couple work for an ‘Israeli agency’ (EPA)

Three people, including a married Israeli couple, have been arrested for espionage after the couple took photographs of the Turkish president’s residence in Istanbul.

According to Turkey’s official news agency, Anadolu Agency, reported that the pair and another Turkish national were arrested after police received a tip-off that they were photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nearby home from the Camlica radio and television tower on the Asian side of Istanbul.

An employee working in the tower told police they were taking the pictures from the tower’s restaurant earlier this week.

They were formally arrested pending trial for “political and military espionage” by an Istanbul court.

The suspects were taken in for questioning and later “grilled” by officials of Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor’s office, Anadolu Agency said.

They were formally arrested pending trial for “political and military espionage” by an Istanbul court.

In a statement issued late on Friday, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid denied the couple work for an “Israeli agency”.

He said his department has been in regular contact with the pair and is trying to organise their release.

Mr Lapid reportedly spoke with the couple’s family and reassured them the Israeli foreign ministry had sought an urgent consular visit and was “acting on all levels to ensure their release,” the office added.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz identified the couple as Natalie and Mordi Oknin.

Citing their lawyer, it said they were taking photographs of the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce Palace while taking a ferry.

Parts of Dolmabahce, located on the city’s European side, are used as a presidential working office.

According to the Times of Israel, the couple’s lawyer said in a letter to Lapid: “It was an innocent act done in good faith, as a tourist act, and not as a ‘criminal’ act that justifies such an abusive act of detention.”

Additional reporting by AP

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