Kin of Turkish activists killed in flotilla raid won’t drop Israel lawsuits
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Kin of Turkish activists killed in flotilla raid won’t drop Israel lawsuits

Trials of ex-IDF brass to continue despite Jerusalem-Ankara reconciliation deal, which includes $20m compensation to relatives

Footage taken from the 'Mavi Marmara' security cameras showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Footage taken from the 'Mavi Marmara' security cameras showing activists preparing to attack IDF soldiers, May 2010. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — The families of Turkish activists killed in a 2010 IDF raid on a flotilla trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip say they will not drop their legal cases, despite a reconciliation deal between Ankara and Jerusalem.

The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board the “Mavi Marmara” ship, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.

Already tense ties between Israel and Turkey crumbled after the raid, but in June they finally agreed to end the bitter row after months-long secret talks.

The $20 million compensation paid to the victims’ families was one of the three key demands by Turkey for the reconciliation deal with Israel, along with an apology and an easing of the blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. An apology by Israel was issued three years ago.

Turkish officials confirmed the amount was transferred to the justice ministry account last month.

Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)
Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)

Under the deal, both sides agreed that individual Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the government would not be held liable.

But the families of the dead said they would press on with their legal battle until the alleged perpetrators were brought to justice.

Cigdem Topcuoglu, an academic from southern Adana province, said her husband was killed when the couple were both on board the ship.

“We are certainly not accepting the compensation,” she told AFP in Istanbul.

“They will come and kill your husband next to you and say ‘take this money, keep your mouth shut and give up on the case.’ Would you accept that?”

In total, there were six ships in the flotilla that were boarded in international waters about 130km (80 miles) from the Israeli coast.

Life sentences sought

After the deal with Israel, an Istanbul court on October 19 held another hearing in the trial of the four former Israeli military commanders, though it was later adjourned to December 2.

Hamas naval policemen and Palestinians prepare for the arrival of the flotilla to Gaza on May 30, 2010. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Hamas naval policemen and Palestinians prepare for the arrival of the flotilla to Gaza on May 30, 2010. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.

“We have no intention to drop the lawsuits,” Topcuoglu said.

Human rights lawyer Rodney Dixon said the criminal case against the accused must go on “at all costs.”

“We are strongly supporting the case here in Turkey and our very firm plea to the court has been that they must continue with the case,” he said.

“The so-called agreement between Israel and Turkey is not a treaty that is enforceable. It is unlawful under international law, under the convention on human rights and Turkish law.”

‘Lawlessness’

Families say they were not informed of any details about the deal with Israel and they have not received any money.

Ismail Songur, whose father died in the raid, said: “Nobody from the Turkish government asked our opinion before they struck a deal.

“Unfortunately the Turkish government is becoming a part of the lawlessness carried out by Israel.”

“Even if families of the victims accept the money, that would not affect the case,” said Gulden Sonmez, one of the lawyers in the trial and also a passenger on the ship.

“That is a criminal suit, not a suit for compensation. The $20 million is an ex gratia payment. It’s a donation and cannot be accepted as compensation.”

Illustrative: A Turkish ship with an IHH banner heading toward Gaza in 2010. (Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Turkish ship with an IHH banner heading toward Gaza in 2010. (Moti Milrod/Pool/Flash90)

A vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause who regularly lambasts Israeli assaults in Gaza, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June caught many by surprise when he criticized the 2010 flotilla, a few days after his government reached an accord with Israel.

“Did you ask then-prime minister to deliver humanitarian aid from Turkey?” he said in comments seen as veiled criticism of the Turkish Islamic charity IHH, which organized the flotilla.

Bulent Yildirim, head of the IHH, said the legal case would never end.

“Those who believe the case would drop will be disappointed,” he said.

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