IHH vows to pursue charges against Israeli military members

Bülent Yıldırım, chairman of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), has said they will never drop legal cases filed against Israeli military members who fatally raided the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship in May 2010.

IHH vows to pursue charges against Israeli military members

World Bulletin/News Desk                        

Bülent Yıldırım, chairman of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), has said they will never drop legal cases filed against Israeli military members who raided the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship heading to Gaza in May 2010, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American.

Yıldırım said they are determined to continue their struggle with the Israeli military and to stand against Israel until it lifts the blockade on Palestine.

“If the legal cases [filed against Israeli military members] do not conclude the way we want it to, the whole world will see how we are going to take to the streets [to protest the result],” Yıldırım told reporters on Monday. He added that the normalization of ties with Israel was a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

The fifth hearing of the trial was held at the İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court on Monday with some of the survivors, victims' family members and lawyers representing the Israeli military members and flotilla victims in attendance. The trial began on Nov. 6 of last year and saw the attendance of a large number of attorneys from both Turkey and abroad as well as the flotilla activists and families of the victims. The court is hearing charges that were filed against four of Israel's most senior retired commanders, including the ex-army chief, in absentia. Prosecutors are requesting life imprisonment for the officers who directed the raid, but the trial of four of Israel's most senior retired commanders was dismissed by Israel as a politically motivated "show trial" and threatens to further strain already strained relations.

Following Israel's recent apology for the raid, the two countries began talks of compensation to be paid to the families of those who were killed or injured on the Mavi Marmara. Although there is an agreement with Israel over the parameters within which the compensation would be paid, a precise amount has not yet been determined.

Israel wants the lawsuits against its soldiers to be dropped as part of the agreement on compensation. The text of the apology offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 22, said the two sides had agreed "to conclude an agreement on compensation (and) non-liability" of the Israeli soldiers.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who oversees the compensation talks with Israel, has revealed that the two nations are planning to sign a formal agreement specifying the terms of the compensation deal and that the Turkish government will then present the deal to Parliament for its endorsement as an international agreement.

International agreements, according to the Turkish Constitution, are superior to national law, which means that the Mavi Marmara court cases would have to be dropped by virtue of the Turkish-Israeli compensation agreement.

Yıldırım, however, said no one has the right to drop the charges against Israeli soldiers. "Bilateral agreements are being made," he said in reference to the Turkish-Israeli talks. "As a result of these agreements, [Turkish-Israeli] relations will be fixed, relations will be normalized and the cases will be dropped. No one has the right to do so. The people of Turkey, of the world will not let this happen. We will not let this happen," he said.

Gülden Sönmez, a lawyer from the İHH who was on the Mavi Marmara during the Israeli raid, said they expected the Israeli soldiers to be arrested.

“Everyone is disturbed that the case is being reduced to compensation. People do not want compensation to be discussed before the blockade is lifted and soldiers are punished,” she added.

Ahmet Doğan, the father of Furkan Doğan, a 19-year-old Turkish-American peace activist who was killed during the raid, gave details about a letter he had written to the US President Barack Obama. Doğan accompanied Erdoğan during his visit to Washington, D.C., last week to deliver the letter to the US president himself.

Doğan recounted that his letter said although his son was an American citizen, the country did not start a legal process to address his death. “We [also] want the US to file a criminal case against Israel. We also asked [in the letter] the US to return Furkan's personal belongings,” added Doğan.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office identified the four accused as former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Rau Aluf Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.

Before the hearing on Monday, dozens of people who came together outside the courthouse.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Mayıs 2013, 10:59