FM sends official to help free Israeli couple jailed in Istanbul

The head of the Consular Division of the Foreign Ministry, Rina Djerassi, headed to Istanbul on Monday to reinforce efforts to secure the release of the Israeli couple arrested for photographing the palace of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid authorized his trip, aimed at helping Israel’s diplomats in Turkey, who have been working to help Natali and Mordy Oaknin.

“Efforts to free the couple continue at all levels,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Turkish authorities have yet to respond to Israel’s request over the weekend for an urgent consular visit to the couple, which Israel has said has no ties to any security agency.

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

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after attending Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 7, 2020 (Credit: REUTERS / MURAD SEZER / FILE PHOTO )The Oaknins, Egged bus drivers who live in Modi’in, took the photo of Erdogan’s palace while at the Camilca Tower, a television tower that opened earlier this year and is the tallest in Europe. A waitress overheard them talking about it and reported them to the police.
The Turkish police recommended deporting the Oaknins and notified Israel of their plans. However, the prosecution asked to accuse the couple and a Turkish citizen who was with them of espionage. A court extended his preventive detention on Friday for at least 20 days, while the prosecution prepared his case for trial. The move toward espionage charges against the Oaknins raised concerns that the Erdogan government could use the case to help him politically, but that theory was played down. plausible after the matter was removed from the headlines in Turkey after a few days.

At the same time, the Oaknins’ Israeli lawyer, Nir Yaslovitzh, told Ynet on Monday that his Turkish partner in the case visited the Oaknins and found that they are being treated properly and in good shape.

Still, Erdogan could use the couple as diplomatic lever, which could further deteriorate the poor relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Turkey and Israel technically maintain diplomatic relations, but they have been tense for most of the last decade since the Erdogan-linked IHH (Humanitarian Aid Foundation) sent the Mavi Marmara ship to break the IDF naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people on board. . IDF naval commandos stopped the ship and killed nine activists.

Erdogan has been openly hostile towards Israel, supports Hamas and finances anti-Israel organizations in East Jerusalem.

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