#MaviMarmara | Turkey tries Israeli top brass in absentia over flotilla raid (updated)

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Prosecutors at Istanbul court are seeking life sentences for four Israeli ex-military chiefs over deadly maritime assault in Mediterranean Sea.

Middle East Online | Nov 6, 2012 | Ceren KUMOVA – ISTANBUL, Turkey

A Turkish court on Tuesday opened the trial in absentia of four Israeli ex-military chiefs over a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship, as hundreds of protesters gathered outside waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Damn Israel”.

Prosecutors at the Istanbul court are seeking life sentences for the four over the deadly maritime assault in the Mediterranean Sea that severely damaged ties between Israel and Turkey.

Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by Turkish relief agency IHH to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, on May 31, 2010, leaving nine Turkish activists dead.

“Today only four Israeli commanders are standing trial but this case could have a political extension,” said IHH vice-chairman Huseyin Oruc. “The court has all the evidence.”

The accused Israeli commanders did not attend the trial, after Israel ruled that those who took part in the raid did nothing wrong.

The defendants are former military chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.

Last year, an Israeli probe ruled that the raid did not violate international law, in a finding that Turkey said lacked credibility.

A UN report in September 2011 found Israel had used “excessive” force in the raid, but also said Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal and that the flotilla organisers had acted “recklessly” in attempting the mission.

The raid triggered a crisis between Israel and Turkey, once regional allies, and resulted in a dramatic downgrade in diplomatic relations and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey. Military ties were also cut.

In May, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had said he was expecting foreign diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the trial that could have “wide-ranging implications for NATO and US forces,” which frequently board ships suspected of terror activity.

Turkey says ties will not return to normal unless Israel offers a formal apology, compensates the victims and lifts the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Outside the Istanbul court, protesters carrying Palestinian flags chanted

“Allahu Akbar” (God is great)” and “Damn Israel” while some wore headbands declaring “Until Palestine is free,” and unfurled banners saying “Martyrs are here, where are the Zionists?”

A balloon was flying in the air above the court, with the words “Israel on trial” emblazoned across it.

Last month, Israeli troops boarded a Finnish-flagged ship after it tried to breach Israel’s tight maritime embargo on Gaza, which prohibits all naval traffic in and out of the coastal territory.


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Related reports in media

  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkey tries Israeli officers over flotilla raid – China.org.cn
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Israel Slams Turkey over Flotilla ‘Show Trial’Naharnet
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkey To Try Israeli Commanders Over Deadly Aid Flotilla RaidRTT News
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkey tries Israeli military over raid – The Australian
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkey tries Israeli military officers over 2010 flotilla raid – Xinhua
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkish Court Tries Israelis in Gaza Flotilla Case – ABC News
  • Nov 6, 2012 |  Turkey prosecutes Israeli commanders for Gaza flotilla deaths  – guardian
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Turkey tries Israeli ex-military over deadly Gaza flotilla raid – Al Akhbar English
  • Nov 6, 2012 | Istanbul: Trial of Israeli officers over Freedom Flotilla attack – PIC

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