Turkey Indicts Israel's IDF Officials for Gaza Flotilla Killings

Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 22, 2010 (Photo: AP)

Turkey Indicts Israel's IDF Officials for Gaza Flotilla Killings

Israeli officials charged with 'inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing'

A Turkish court today officially pressed charges against senior Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officials over the Gaza Flotilla attack that resulted in the killing of nine activists aboard a Turkish ship headed for Gaza in 2010. The Istanbul court unanimously approved an indictment that had been finalized Wednesday by Turkish prosecutors.

Turkish judges approved a demand for a combined 18,000 year sentence for former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, along with the former heads of its navy, air force intelligence, and military intelligence, Eliezer Marom, Amos Yadlin, and Avishai Levi. The accused face nine consecutive life terms in prison for "inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing".

The attack came upon a Turkish activist 'Flotilla' heading from Turkey to bring aid into Gaza, in a bid to break an Israeli blockade. Israeli commandos boarded the largest ship in the flotilla, Mavi Marmara, and subsequently attacked those on board, leaving nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

The date for the trial has not been announced, but it would be held in the absence of the defendants, as Israel refuses to accept the charges. The IDF officials will not likely face the charges unless they set foot in Turkey.

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Israel's Haaretzreports:

Turkish Court Charges Senior IDF Officials over Gaza Flotilla Deaths

It is unlikely Israeli military members will be brought before Turkey's judicial system, since Israel does not regard them as criminals. If they are convicted in absentia at the end of the trial process, which could take months if not years, the Turkish court could issue an order for their arrest, but such a move would be symbolic and not binding.

A week ago, the Turkish newspaper "Sabah" first reported the upcoming indictments; however Israeli officials refused to comment on the reports until they were endorsed by the Turkish government, or until the indictments were delivered to the court.

The move comes just a few days ahead of the second anniversary of the May 31 raid. The ship had been part of a flotilla sailing toward Gaza to protest Israel's blockade.

The court also agreed to press charges against several unidentified soldiers who raided the ship, the Turkish news agency said. No trial date has been set. Turkey has tried without success to get Israel to apologize for the attack, and to compensate those killed as a precondition for normalizing relations. Israel has solely expressed regret for the loss of lives. [...]

The indictment rejected Israeli claims that Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara acted in self defense, saying that Israeli commandos used disproportional force by firing with heavy weapons and automatic rifles on passengers who only carried "plastic flag masts, spoons, and forks."

The indictment said some of the victims were shot dead from close range and from the back, the agency reported earlier.

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Agence France-Presse: Turkey prepares trial of Israeli raid commanders

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

The 144-page indictment called for nine life sentences to be given to each of the four commanders, including Israel's former chief of the general staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

The date for the trial is not yet announced, but it would be held in the absence of the accused, Israel having ruled out any prosecution of those who took part in the attack.

A United Nations report into the raid last September accused Israel of acting with "excessive force" in the operation.

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