ANKARA (JWN and agencies)—A Turkish prosecutor on Wednesday indicted four former senior Israel Defense Forces officers for their role in the seizure of a Turkish ship trying to run Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010. Nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israel Navy commandos took over the ship, the Mavi Marmara.
Istanbul State Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci prepared an indictment seeking life sentences for former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and three other retired senior commanders, referring to them as “fugitive suspects,” the Turkish newspaper Sabah reported.
Sabah said it had seen details of the indictment, which calls for 10 life sentences to be given to each of the four commanders. It said the Istanbul chief prosecutor must still approve the indictment.
The paper said the 144-page indictment had been prepared after testimony was taken from some 600 people, including 490 passengers from the six-ship flotilla that tried to break the blockade and relatives of those who had died.
Sabah also reported that the indictment was based on material from the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign and Justice ministries, and the intelligence service.
Israel made no immediate response to news of the indictment, but its previous reaction to Turkey’s accusations was that the fatalities were the result of its commandos acting in self-defense after being assaulted by the nine well armed passengers in a premeditated attack using metal bars, clubs, and knives when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply after the incident. Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze all military cooperation after a UN report into the incident last September basically upheld Israel’s version of events and its right to impose a naval blockade on arms to the Gaza Strip.
Turkey, on the other hand, has refused to accept responsibility and continued to demand a formal apology from Israel and compensation to families of the dead.
To add an economic aspect to the long-running dispute with Israel, Turkey is now challenging Israel and Cyprus over who has the right to drill for huge natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.