Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced early Thursday morning that Israeli couple Mordy and Natali Oknin have been released from detention in Turkey and are making their way to Israel.
Bennett and Lapid thanked the President of Turkey and his government for their cooperation and look forward to welcoming the couple back home.
They also expressed their respect to the Oknin family for their strength during this complicated time and for their cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additionally, they conveyed special thanks to President Isaac Herzog for his efforts to help bring them home.
Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid spoke on Thursday morning with Shiraz, the daughter of Natali Oknin, and with Eran, Natali's brother, who are waiting for Mordy and Natali at the airport.
Prime Minister Bennett said in the conversation, "Shiraz, good morning. It is wonderful to speak with you again. You see? I told you that we are doing everything, and indeed we did everything. You were a wonderful partner. The family's restraint was very critical in these days.”
“Give little Ofek a hug for me. Mom and Dad are on their way home. I hope that you will now have calmer days. I am happy that they are returning to you."
Lapid said in the conversation, "Shiraz, Eran, and the entire family, you are amazing. I am very excited with you. We were with you all week. We promised that we would do everything to bring them back to you and now, they are on their way home. Give them a big hug for us."
President Isaac Herzog welcomed the release of Natali and Mordy Oknin from their arrest in Turkey.
"Welcome back to Israel! Natali and Mordy - how good it is that you came home. Warm hugs to you and your family. I praise the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and all those involved in bringing the Oknin couple back home. I thank the President of Turkey and his government for their cooperation," Herzog said.
Mordy and Natali Oknin were detained in Turkey nine days ago for photographing the palace of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and were later charged with espionage.
On Tuesday, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu commented on the saga for the first time, and accused the Oknins of "political and military espionage."
"The courts will decide" their fate, Soylu added.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bennett spoke to the families of Natali and Mordy Oknin. The Prime Minister reiterated that he stood by the members of the family, who are currently facing a complicated situation, and expressed his solidarity with them.
Prime Minister Bennett thanked the family for its responsible and restrained conduct in light of the complexity of the issue, and updated them on the multi-faceted efforts being made around the clock, led by the Foreign Ministry, to resolve the matter forthwith.
Prime Minister Bennett requested that the family show fortitude and noted that his staff is at their disposal 24/7 for anything.