The attorney general of Turkey has filed charges against four senior Israeli military officers for the killing of nine people aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010. The move comes just days ahead of the second anniversary of the May 31, 2010, raid.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency says a court in Istanbul voted unanimously Monday to approve an indictment against Israel’s former chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, along with former Israeli Navy head Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former Israel Air Force intelligence chief Avishai Levy and former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin. According to Anadolu, the four face nine consecutive life terms in prison for “inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing.”
The prosecution will request 18,000 years in prison for the four collectively, for the deaths of nine activists and torturing 114 more.
Israeli military members are unlikely to stand trial in Turkey but the court might issue an order for their arrest if they are convicted in absentia.
Last week, Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Akif EkinciIn released a 144-page document in which he reported that he questioned nearly 600 people, including 490 Mavi Marmara passengers and the relatives of those killed. He also corresponded with Israeli Foreign Ministry representatives and with the Turkish government and intelligence services in preparing the document.
Israel conducted a formal investigation into the Mavi Marmara event in 2011 and cleared the IDF of wrongdoing. Israel has refused to apologize to Turkey over the incident, saying the naval commandos were attacked as they sought to commandeer the vessel in accordance with Israel’s sea blockade of Hamas-run Gaza, and that they opened fire on their assailants in self-defense.
An official Turkish inquiry called the Gaza blockade illegal and slammed the interception of the Mavi Marmara by the IDF as “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Israel reportedly made an offer last year to pay $6 million to the victims of the flotilla raid, according to Reuters. An unnamed Israeli official confirmed that the offer had been made without accepting blame for the events. Israel has since not renewed the offer.
Recently there has been some speculation that the tensions between Israel and Turkey are beginning to thaw slightly. In mid-May, Channel 10 News reported that a senior Turkish envoy had been sent to Israel by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogann in an attempt to normalize ties between the two countries. The envoy reportedly met with high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.