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Israel denounces court proceedings over Gaza ship deaths as ‘show trial’

Angry protesters shouted antiIsraeli slogans. Picture: Reuters

Angry protesters shouted antiIsraeli slogans. Picture: Reuters

  • by ECE TOKSABAY
 

Turkey has opened the trial in absentia of former Israeli military commanders charged over the 2010 killings of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

Turkey has opened the trial in absentia of former Israeli military commanders charged over the 2010 killings of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The proceedings against four of Israel’s most senior retired commanders, including the former head of the army, has been dismissed by Israel as a politically motivated “show trial” and threatens to further strain already fraught relations.

Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip. Nine Turks were killed in clashes on board.

Hundreds of protesters chanting “Murderer Israel!” gathered outside the Istanbul court yesterday as witnesses and relatives of those killed in the raid began to arrive.

“Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!” the crowd chanted as others held up a banner with the words: “What is the difference? Hitler = Israel.”

Inside the court, the judge began hearing testimony from those aboard the flotilla during the 2010 raid and from relatives of the dead. Some 500 people are expected to give evidence.

Nimet Akyuz, the wife of one of the activists killed on the Mavi Marmara, broke down as she described the moment she learned her husband was dead. Others wept as she spoke.

She said: “I was at home with my daughters when I found out my husband had died.

“We know they will never suffer the pain we did, but we want those responsible to be punished. We want our voice to be heard and the international community to acknowledge Israel’s cruelty.”

Ann Wright, a former US military colonel who was on one of the smaller ships in the flotilla, described how Israeli troops had boarded their vessel, firing paint bullets and tossing stun grenades.

“One of the reasons I went on the flotilla is that I felt compelled to challenge Israeli policy to impose an illegal blockade on Palestine and the US policy to support Israel’s illegal actions,” she told the court.

The indictment prepared by a state prosecutor seeks multiple life sentences for the now-retired Israeli officers over their involvement in the nine killings and in the wounding of more than 50 others.

The 144-page indictment names Israel’s former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and three other senior commanders.

However, Israel has claimed the accused have not even been notified of the charges.

“This is not a trial, this is a show trial with a kangaroo court. This is a trial taken right out of a Kafka novel, a grotesque political show that has nothing to do with law and justice,” Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said.

Israel and Nato member Turkey, which both border Syria, once shared intelligence information and conducted joint military exercises, co-operation which has been cancelled.

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military co-operation after a UN report into the 2010 incident released in September last year largely exonerated the Jewish state.

The report deepened the rift when it concluded that Israel had used unreasonable force, but that its blockade of Gaza was legal.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in July that Israel and Turkey needed to repair their relationship, but attempts to rekindle the strategic alliance have failed.

Turkey has demanded a formal apology, compensation for victims and the families of the dead, and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted.

 
 
 

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