Turkish flotilla activists won’t drop charges, despite Israeli apology

Meeting between two countries’ teams over compensation to victims postponed, because Erdogan will be away

The Free Gaza flotilla ship Rachel Corrie approaching Ashdod in 2010. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)
The Free Gaza flotilla ship Rachel Corrie approaching Ashdod in 2010. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

Turkish activists who were aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara that was intercepted by the IDF in 2010 refused to drop their lawsuits against Israeli soldiers and officials involved in the raid, despite Jerusalem’s landmark apology to Istanbul over the incident, plaintiffs stated Monday.

An Istanbul court is currently hearing charges that have been filed against four of the most senior retired commanders, including the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, in absentia, something Israel has characterized as a politically motivated stunt.

Musa Cogas, who was wounded by the IDF aboard the Mavi Marmara, said that the activists would continue with the criminal lawsuits even if Israel compensates the victims and their families, Reuters reported.

Another activist aboard the boat, Ahmet Varol, said that Israel’s lifting of its blockade of Gaza would help resolve the stand-off.

“Nobody wants compensation, and while an apology may have diplomatic meaning, it means nothing to the victims,” said Varol. “Our efforts are for the full lifting of the blockade.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month for operational errors made in the raid that ended with the deaths of nine Turkish nationals aboard the blockade-busting vessel.

In a phone conversation during the final moments of US President Barack Obama’s visit, Netanyahu promised compensation for the victims and their families and agreed to ease its blockade of Gaza in return for Ankara dropping the lawsuits — potentially paving the way for normalization between the two countries for the first time in three years.

Turkey had demanded $1 million for each of the families of the nine Turkish citizens who were killed after the activists attacked IDF commandos who commandeered the boat; Israel had said it was willing to pay $100,000 to the families. The enormous gulf between the expectations of the two countries prompted officials to establish a commission in late March to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, the visit of an Israeli delegation to Turkey next week to discuss the compensation payments was postponed because Erdogan will be in Kyrgyzstan, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc stated Monday. Jerusalem sources told Maariv that another reason for the delay was that the Turkish government needed more time to convince the activists to drop their charges.

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