A Turkish court on Tuesday began what Israel calls an in absentia “show trial” of former IDF Chief of Gabi Ashkenazi and three other former senior military officers over the 2010 clash with the terror-linked IHH organization.
The prosecutors are demanding multiple life sentences that would amount to 18,000 years in jail for the four officers over the clash that plunged relations between Israel and Turkey into deep crisis. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Istanbul court waving Palestinian Authority flags and chanting “Damn Israel” as the trial opened, AFP reported
Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by the IHH, ostensibly a relief agency but which has been proven to include terrorists. Their ship presumably was headed to Hamas-controlled Gaza with humanitarian aid in an effort to break the maritime embargo against the smuggling of terrorists and arms into Gaza. After the Mavi Mamara ship was led to the post in Ashdod, it was discovered there was no aid on board.
Nine IHH terror activists were killed in the clash after they brutally clubbed IDF Navy commandos who had boarded the ship virtually unarmed. Reinforcements were sent in after the IHH kidnapped, shot and knifed commandos, kidnapping three of them until their rescue.
“This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, saying the defendants had not even been informed about the nature of the charges.
“They haven’t been given even a symbolic chance to have legal representation,” he added. “It’s a propaganda showcase. The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel.”
The defendants in the trial are Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.
Israel ruled that those who took part in the raid did nothing wrong, and one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expected the court to issue an arrest warrant for the men.
Last year, an Israeli probe ruled that the raid did not violate international law, and a United Nations report said that although the IDF used “excessive force,” the flotilla organizers acted “recklessly” and that the maritime blockade was legal.
In May, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had said he was expecting foreign diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the trial, saying it could have “wide-ranging implications for NATO and US forces,” which frequently board ships suspected of terror activity.
Turkey insists ties will not return to normal unless Israel offers a formal apology, compensates the victims and lifts the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.