Israeli Mordi Oknin is greeted upon his arrival home in the Israeli city of Modiin on Thursday following their release. AFP
Turkey has released an Israeli couple who it had detained over espionage charges for allegedly taking photographs of President Tayyip Erdogan's residence during a trip to Istanbul, Israel's prime minister and foreign minister said on Thursday.
Mordi and Natali Oknin were detained last week after visiting the newly opened Camlica Tower — Istanbul's tallest building.
A court in the city charged them with "political and military espionage" for allegedly taking a photograph of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's home, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported.
The Oknins denied the charges, while Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted the couple were not employees of any spying agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an event. File photo
"After joint efforts with Turkey, Mordi and Natali Oknin were released from prison and are on their way home to Israel," the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement, according to AFP.
A Turkish court arrested the Israeli couple on Nov. 12 on charges of espionage for taking photographs of Erdogan's residence from the Camlica Tower, a telecommunications tower in Istanbul with observation decks, Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency reported.
A crowd of relatives and supporters greeted the couple as they arrived back in the central Israeli city of Modiin, footage aired by public television showed.
Bennett said he and Lapid "thanked the president of Turkey and his government for their cooperation and look forward to welcoming the couple back home".
Relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained, especially since ambassadors were withdrawn in 2018 after the deaths of Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office said the diplomatic development will see ambassadors and consuls general posted to the two countries once more.
Prosecutor Fatou Besouda added that before doing so she would ask the Hague-based tribunal to rule on the territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.
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