Turkey orders arrest of ex-Israeli army chiefs blamed for deadly maritime assault

Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the commanders who boarded a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists.

ANKARA // A Turkish court ordered the arrest of four former Israeli military chiefs on Monday over a deadly maritime assault that plunged relations between the former allies into crisis in 2010, a lawyer said.

Interpol will be asked to issue international arrest warrants for former military chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, said Cihat Gokdemir, a lawyer working on the case.

No one at the Israeli embassy in Ankara was available for comment.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the commanders, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.

Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara – the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip – on May 31, 2010, and left nine Turkish activists dead.

The assault sparked widespread condemnation and provoked a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology and compensation, and an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip – which is ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

IHH together with the victims’ families brought a criminal case against the four Israeli ex-military chiefs after the maritime assault.

An Israeli probe ruled that the raid did not violate international law, but Turkey said finding lacked credibility.

Cmpensation talks began a year ago after Israel extended a formal apology to Turkey in a breakthrough brokered by US president Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, said in April he was prepared to normalise ties with the Jewish state.

Authorities had said recently they were close to a deal that would see Israel compensate for the deaths, but on condition that the lawsuits against its soldiers were dropped.

“We will not drop the lawsuits. We believe criminals must be put on trial,” Serkan Nergis, spokesman for the IHH said on Monday.

“Even if we do give up, victims’ families will not,” he said.

Turkish media have said that any deal with Israel would have the status of an international agreement and would give the Israeli military immunity from any liability over the assault.

Under the Turkish constitution, international treaties take precedence over domestic law if there is a disagreement.

*Agence France-Presse

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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