To get money, Marmara families must drop demands

To get money, Marmara families must drop demands

Turkish Deputy PM says negotiators are trying to get up to 20 times the amount requested in court, but victims must waive civil suits

Protesters in November 2012 stand outside Istanbul's Palace of Justice, the site of the trial against Israeli army officers for the Mavi Marmara incident. (photo credit: Image capture from Channel 10)
Protesters in November 2012 stand outside Istanbul's Palace of Justice, the site of the trial against Israeli army officers for the Mavi Marmara incident. (photo credit: Image capture from Channel 10)

Families of those killed or injured in the IDF’s raid on the Mavi Marmara will have to drop some of their other demands if they want to receive compensation from Israel, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Sunday.

Speaking to the Turkish newspaper Zaman, Arınç said that whatever compensation agreement is reached with Israel will affect the civil law suits that the families are pursuing.

Officials from Turkey and Israel have been meeting since late March to discuss the terms of Israel’s compensation to families of the nine activists killed in the May 2010 raid on the Gaza blockade-busting ship.

However, in April, families of the victims said that the compensation will not dissuade them from pressing forward with civil suits to bring to trial Israeli officers and officials that they hold responsible for the raid. The families also objected to compensation negotiations taking place before Israel lifts the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip that the Mavi Marmara was trying to break when the raid occurred.

“We are aware of their demands,” said Arınç. “If we come up with a bilateral agreement [with Israel], they [the families] will be required to waive their lawsuits, otherwise they will not receive any compensation.”

Arınç who heads of the Turkish negotiation delegation, added that  negotiators were trying to secure “10 or 20 times the amount” that the families demanded in Turkish courts.

After the round of talks in late April, a senior Turkish diplomatic source said that “the unwillingness of the Mavi Marmara victims’ families to drop claims against Israel will not prevent the full normalization of relations between the two countries.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu joined Arınç on the negotiating team. They met with Israeli National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and special envoy to Turkey, attorney Joseph Ciechanover.

Earlier that month, Arınç said that Israel’s apology over the flotilla incident and acquiescence to Turkey’s other demands of paying compensation to the families of those who died, as well as easing the blockade on Gaza, have paved the way for re-establishing ties that broke off after the incident. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the apology in a phone call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the end of a visit to Israel in March by US President Barack Obama.

According to Turkish law, international agreements take precedence over domestic law in the event of a conflict, and may not be appealed in the constitutional court.

The families of the activists and their attorneys have said that if the trials are dropped in Turkey, they will bring their case to an international body, such as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

“The lawsuits filed against Israeli soldiers are human rights cases and no international agreement would supersede them,” said one of the Mavi Marmara attorneys, Cihat Gökdemir. He added that in his opinion, the European Court of Human Rights would agree with that stand.

After the latest round of talks last week, Turkish and Israeli officials reportedly arrived at a formula for compensation.

According to earlier reports, Israel has offered $100,000 to each family, while the families were asking for $1 million each. During a previous round of talks, in Turkey, a framework was said to have been devised under which payments would be based on the victims’ ages, family circumstances and other factors.

Also on the table is redress for some 70 others who were injured in the raid, which Israel in principle has agreed to pay, Maariv reported on Sunday.

Other issues said to be under discussion were an Israeli demand that various criminal lawsuits against IDF officers and Israel officials over the Marmara incident be dropped, and a Turkish demand that Israel ease its blockade of Gaza.

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