Turkey allows consular visit to jailed Israeli couple

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Oaknins are “two innocent citizens who accidentally ended up in a complex situation.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the re-opening of the Ottoman-era Yildiz Hamidiye mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, August 4, 2017 (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the re-opening of the Ottoman-era Yildiz Hamidiye mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, August 4, 2017
(photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)

Turkey authorized a visit by officials from the Israeli consulate in Istanbul to the couple arrested for photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace, as a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat headed to Turkey on Monday to secure the Israelis’ release.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said “we are working on their release around the clock and at the highest levels.”

“I ask all the ministers and MKs and the media: Think about it as if it is not Natali and Mordy [Oaknin], but your mom and dad in jail in Turkey. That it’s not Shiraz, but your 20-year-old daughter at home, with a five-year-old brother on the spectrum,” Lapid said at a Yesh Atid faction meeting. “It’s not worth putting them in danger for a headline. Let us work.” 

Israel’s consulate-general in Istanbul is working on coordinating a visit as soon as possible, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Ministry Consular Division head Rina Djerassi headed to Istanbul to help Israel’s diplomats in Turkey, who have been working to help Natali and Mordy Oaknin.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER/FILE PHOTO)Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER/FILE PHOTO)

The couple's lawyer, Nir Yaslovich, said after visiting Morday Oaknin on Monday that he was very confused about why he was in jail and cried a lot. The Turkish lawyer working with him visited Natali Oaknin, who asked how her children were doing and for a book to read and a change of clothes. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Oaknins are “two innocent citizens who accidentally ended up in a complex situation.”

The Oaknins, Egged bus drivers who live in Modi’in, took the photo of Erdogan’s palace while in the Camlica Tower, a television tower that opened earlier this year and is the tallest in Europe. A waitress heard them talking about it and reported them to the police.

Turkish police recommended deporting the Oaknins, and notified Israel of its plans. However, the prosecution asked to charge the couple and a Turkish citizen who was with them with espionage. A court extended their remand on Friday for at least 20 days, as the prosecution prepared its case for a trial.

The move toward charges of spying against the Oaknins raised concerns that Erdogan’s government could use the case to help him politically. However, that theory grew less plausible after the matter was dropped from the headlines in Turkey after a few days.