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Turkish court drops case against Israelis over Gaza flotilla raid

Arrest warrant for the 4 ex-military chiefs also reportedly withdrawn, in wake of reconciliation deal between the two countries

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 — An Istanbul court on Friday dropped the case against four top former Israeli commanders who were being tried in absentia over a 2010 deadly IDF raid on a Gaza-bound ship, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

An arrest warrant for the four was also withdrawn, Gulden Sonmez, a lawyer representing those on board during the raid, wrote on Twitter after a closed door hearing in Istanbul.

Nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos who were attacked when they boarded the Mavi Marmara ship as it tried to breach the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip in May 2010, and a 10th died in hospital in 2014.

The raid exacerbated an already frosty relationship, with both countries withdrawing their respective ambassadors from the country capitals, though diplomatic ties were never fully severed.

Prosecutors had been seeking life sentences for the alleged involvement of 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 were all put on trial in absentia in 2012.

The Mavi Marmara is seen off the coast of Israel in May 2010. (Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)
The Mavi Marmara is seen off the coast of Israel in May 2010. (Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

The bitter rift between Ankara and Jerusalem came to an end in June this year after the once-close allies held long-running secret talks in third countries, with Israel offering an apology over the raid and $20 million in compensation. Israel also agreed to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza as part of the agreement.

The Istanbul court ruling came exactly a week after a Turkish prosecutor called for the charges to be dropped following the diplomatic reconciliation.

Under the terms of the rapprochement, both sides also agreed individual Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the Israeli government would not be held liable — either criminally or financially — for the raid.

Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na'eh, hands his credentials to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday, December 5, 2016. (courtesy Turkish Presidency)
Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na’eh, hands his credentials to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday, December 5, 2016. (courtesy Turkish Presidency)

One of the final key elements of returning to normal relations was the exchange of ambassadors; Israel’s new envoy Eitan Na’eh arrived in Ankara earlier this month, where he presented his credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s policy advisor Kemal Okem will start work as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel on December 12, Anadolu said last week.

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