Mavi Marmara, Ankara opens trial against former Israeli officers
Istanbul (AsiaNews/agencies)- A court in Istanbul is about to begin the trial in absentia against four former Israeli army officers, allegedly responsible for the May 2010 blitz on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. The boat was carrying activists and humanitarian aid to Gaza, in an effort to force the blockade imposed by the Government of Tel Aviv and bring relief to the Palestinian population of exhausted by the embargo. In the Israeli commando raid, carried out in international waters, nine Turkish activists were killed, dozens wounded; the assault on the ship triggered a crisis in diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel.
Last may a Turkish Prosecutor indicted four former senior officers of the Army of David, on charges including "incitement to murder, through cruelty or torture". The defendants are: General Gabi Ashkenazi, former Army Chief, former Navy Chief vice admiral Eliezer Marom, former Chief of military intelligence Amos Yadlin and the former air force Chief Avishai Lev. If convicted, the courts might take out an international arrest warrant for their arrest.
According to Israel the commandos acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists aboard the Turkish ship. The Israeli Embassy in Ankara has slammed the trial as a "unilateral political act, with no legal credibility".
A 2011 United Nations inquiry (see. AsiaNews 9/2/2011 Turkey imposes sanctions against Israel in the wake of UN report on the Gaza flotilla) ruled that the blockade of Gaza operated by Israel is a "legitimate security measure" and that the troops have encountered significant and "organized" opposition upon boarding the ship. However, the document adds that the order to assault the craft and the substantial use of force were "excessive and unreasonable".
The Turkish ships, which set sail from Cyprus, carried 10 thousand tons of aid to Gaza to challenge the blockade that Israel imposes on the Palestinians in the Strip. According to the more than 600 activists on board, the ships contained concrete for building, prefabricated homes and water purifiers, electric wheelchairs. The aid flotilla was the brainchild of pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish organization for human rights.
It was the ninth attempt by pro-Palestinian groups to break the Israeli blockade. Ankara had asked Tel Aviv to grant the safe passage of vessels; in response, Tel Aviv had threatened to stop any transgression of the blockade, which has lasted since 2007 when Hamas took power in the Strip. The United Nations has repeatedly called for the removal of the blockade to avert a humanitarian crisis, contradicted with disdain by the Israeli Government that allows - with precise deadlines-the entry of food, medicines and kerosene. According to Israel, the blockade is necessary to prevent the entry of weapons and missiles into the Strip.