Turkish court indicts IDF Generals for Mavi Marmara killings
Rally in Istanbul to commemorate flotilla
A major rally was held in Istanbul to mark the second anniversary of the sailing of the 2010 flotilla to Gaza.
By Elad Benari, Arutz Sheva (Israel National News)
A major rally was held in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday, marking the second anniversary of the sailing of the 2010 flotilla to Gaza.
The Turkey-based IHH terror group, [see below] which was behind the flotilla, marked the day by holding a press conference aboard the Mavi Marmara, with relatives of the nine Turkish nationals who were killed on the ship.
The nine were killed when Israeli soldiers who boarded the Gaza-bound ship were forced to open fire, after being attacked by the IHH terrorists[see below] on board with clubs and knives.
The Marmara had been violating the naval blockade on Gaza and claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza, a fact which was later proven to be wrong.
The incident severely strained the relations between Israel and Turkey. Turkey demanded that Israel apologize for the deaths of the nine, but Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu refused to apologize. Turkey responded by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel.
Turkey further strained the relations with Israel this week, when a Turkish court formally indicted former IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and several other former top IDF officers for the killing of the nine.
Turkish: İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı; full Turkish name: İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, in English: The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) or İHH is an IslamicTurkish NGO active in more than 100 countries.
Established in 1992 and officially registered in Istanbul in 1995, İHH provides humanitarian relief in areas of war, earthquake, hunger, and conflict. The İHH holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 2004.Current president of the İHH is Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım.
The İHH was owner and operator of three flotilla ships involved in an aid convoy intended to breach the blockade of Gaza in 2010. These ships included the MV Mavi Marmara, a passenger vessel that served as the flagship of the convoy. Nine passengers, many of them members or volunteers for the İHH, aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed in a clash with Israeli forces that raided the vessel as it was on its way to Gaza
Turkish judges approve demand for a sentence of a combined 18.000 years for former IDF chief of staff and other officers allegedly responsible for deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara cruise ship in 2010.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz and Associated Press
A Turkish court on Monday formally pressed charges against members of Israel’s military for the killing of nine people aboard a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010, Turkey’s state-run news agency said.
The court in Istanbul voted unanimously to approve an indictment against Israel’s former military chief 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 Anadolu Agency said. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for “inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing,” the agency added.
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.
Israel says its troops opened fire after coming under attack by activists wielding axes, knives and metal rods. It says soldiers rappelled on to the deck armed with non-lethal paintball guns as their primary weapons, and only resorted to using handguns after they were assaulted.
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.
According to Turkish news agencies, nine life sentences were demanded – one for each of the casualties aboard the Mavi Marmara – as part of the indictment, which calls for a combined 18,000 years of imprisonment for the four former officers, punishment for crimes committed during the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. The indictment includes 490 victims and complainants, among them 189 were injured during the raid.
The charges against members of the Israeli military, included commandeering vehicles, voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, persecution and causing damage to the ship, the agency said Monday.
A United Nations probe into the incident found Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza legally imposed “as a legitimate security measure” but added that the killing of eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American was “unacceptable.”
Turkey has rejected the report’s findings, saying Israel had no right to raid the ship in international waters and said it would never recognize the blockade’s legitimacy.
Turkey has also slapped a series of sanctions on Israel, once a top military trading partner, which included expelling senior Israeli diplomats and suspending all military deals. It has also vowed to back the Palestinian bid for recognition of their statehood at the United Nations.
‘If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey – I am willing to pay that price’
By Carl, Israel Matzav, blog
Turkish high criminal court on Monday accepted indictments against four former senior IDF officers in connection with the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010.
A Turkish high criminal court has unanimously accepted an indictment seeking life sentences for four former Israeli military commanders over their alleged involvement in the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman and the Andalou Agency reported Monday.
The indictment seeks nine counts of aggravated life imprisonment for former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Israel Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former IAF intelligence head Brig.-Gen. Avishai Levy.
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi responded
Former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday that he hoped common sense would prevail, in response to reports that a Turkish high criminal court had unanimously accepted an indictment seeking life sentences for him and three others over the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid. He also expressed hope that Turkey would reestablish diplomatic ties with Israel.
…”From the beginning of the affair, I appeared before every forum, sometimes on my own, to defend IDF soldiers who performed their job out in the field on behalf of Israel,” Ashkenazi said. “If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey – I am willing to pay that price.”
Last week, in response to the prospect of indictments, Israel issued some veiled threats against the Turks.
Diplomatic sources stressed Wednesday that no official information had been received about an announcement by Turkey that it planned to indict former IDF commanders over the Marmara affair, but said “If it’s true, this won’t bring us to a good place. We will need to weigh our steps.”
“We also have ways to bother them in the international arena. If this is the path they want, we also know what to do. They have plenty of Achilles’ heels. We don’t want escalation, but if this is the game – we’ll play,” the sources said.
Sarah Colborne, The Electronic Intifada
As one of the activists on the Mavi Marmara, I was overjoyed at the news that Turkey had this month issued indictments against those responsible for Israel’s assault on unarmed humanitarian aid workers sailing in international waters for Gaza two years ago today.
Nine were killed, and 189 injured at the hands of Israeli commandos. The Mavi Marmara has become another moment in history where Israel’s violent response to international solidarity with Palestine exposed the reality of Israel’s crimes, and the resulting growth of solidarity has further strengthened the movement for justice for Palestine.
You don’t send commandos onto a civilian ship, armed with lethal ammunition, unless you intend to use it. Yet if Israel’s intention in attacking the Mavi Marmara and killing passengers was to intimidate solidarity activists, and prevent future acts of solidarity with Palestinians, it very badly failed.
In the immediate aftermath, mass demonstrations took place around the world. Egypt came under intense pressure to open the Rafah border with Gaza.
I was approached by activists desperate to participate in a future flotilla. The first Freedom Flotilla became so iconic that Israel felt it had to stop a second flotilla from even leaving port — a combination of sabotage, and sustained pressure on Greece, where the boats were due to sail from.
Symbol of Israel’s cruelty
Today, the Mavi Marmara symbolizes how Israel was so desperate to prevent electric wheelchairs, baby food and computers from reaching Gaza that it attacked boats in international waters and shot, tasered, beat and humiliated passengers, who were kidnapped and thrown into Israeli prison.
Israeli commandos systematically attempted to destroy all footage of the attack, removing all phones, cameras and videos. But despite this, the few images that were smuggled out, combined with the testimony of survivors, exposed Israel’s criminal activities.
The Israeli military is used to attacking Palestinian men, women and children and getting away with it. They were simply using the same techniques against us. But now at least it couldn’t happen unnoticed and without protest.
Terror just as vivid today
After 31 May 2010 I spent months having to bear witness to the attack on the Mavi Marmara, unable to fully express my emotions. Two years on, the memories are just as vivid.
I remember coming up on deck before dawn to see Israeli warships and inflatables bristling with commandos armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry, ready to fire on unarmed passengers. I remember the whirr of the helicopters above the ship, the commandos descending onto the top of the Mavi Marmara.
I remember Cevdet Kılıçlar being carried on a stretcher back to the deck where I was standing — which before Israel’s assault had been the café — one of the main spaces where we sat, drank tea and got to know one another.
Cevdet had been filming the attack when he was shot in his forehead from above by Israeli commandos. I remember the sound of bullets in the air as I was told to go downstairs, and the endless wait while we sat below deck with the dead, dying and seriously injured, while announcements were made from our loudspeakers saying that we were not resisting, and we needed urgent medical help.
We had no response from the Israeli army for 105 minutes — apart from guns with laser sights being pointed through the windows at our heads.
I remember us all handcuffed on the deck in the boiling sun after the Israeli commandos overtook the ship, not knowing how many of us had been killed.
I remember, after the Turkish government’s intervention and the international outrage forced Israel to release us from prison, being driven in a windowless prison van to the airport, seeing the motionless face of my Turkish friend Cigdem, and then her desperate grip on my hand as we sat together and watched others who had been kidnapped and imprisoned with us board the planes for Istanbul. Cigdem was refusing to leave without the body of her husband, who had been killed on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos.
Ending Israeli impunity
Our collective memories of what happened before dawn broke on 31 May 2010 have woven together, through individual testimonies, through the witness statements taken by the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation, and through the legal action currently being taken in Turkey.
Israel is used to violating international law with impunity, and international bodies consistently fail to bring Israel to justice for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, Israel’s internal investigations simply serve to get those responsible off the hook for crimes such as those that took place on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of the Samouni family in Gaza during the massacre of 2008-09 (see Ali Abunimah, “Slamming the door to justice on Palestinians,” Al Jazeera English, 7 May 2012).
The UNHCR inquiry into Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara, which concludes that the assault by the Israeli military “was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” further highlights the notorious refusal of the Israeli system to deliver justice, not just for us on this occasion, but for Palestinians on every occasion.
So Turkey’s rejection of a payoff of $6 million, and instead indicting four top Israeli generals, is a worrying signal for Israel that its “get out of jail free” cards have an expiry date. The increased solidarity around the world with Palestine will sends a clear message to the Israeli government that every attack it launches on Palestinians or their supporters simply galvanizes international solidarity for the people it so brutally oppresses.
Sarah Colborne is Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain.