Turkish court orders arrest of Israelis over 2010 Gaza aid ship killings

One of the ex-military commanders on trial in absentia for deaths shrugs off Turkish warrant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 9:35pm

A Turkish court has issued arrest warrants for four former Israeli military commanders on trial in absentia over the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The move came after months of negotiations between Turkey and Israel to end a diplomatic crisis over the Israeli commando raid in 2010 on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

The ship was challenging Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave run by the Hamas Islamist group.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed in the operation. A Turkish man, Suleyman Ugur Soylemez, died in hospital on Friday after four years in a coma.

An investigation commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2011 faulted Israeli marines' deadly force against activists who clashed with them aboard the Mavi Marmara, but deemed the blockade legal. Ankara rejected the latter finding.

The Turkish court ordered the arrest of former chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi, ex-navy commander Eliezer Marom, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and ex-head of air force intelligence Avishay Levi.

Yadlin shrugged off the court's decision. "I won't be visiting Turkey, just like I won't be visiting Syria, Iran or North Korea," he said.

Turkish prosecutors have already sought multiple life sentences for the now-retired Israeli officers over their involvement in the killings. Among the charges listed in the 144-page indictment are "inciting murder through cruelty or torture" and "inciting injury with firearms".

Israel has dismissed the proceedings as a political show trial.

Although the indictment was handed down in 2012, no arrest warrants were issued then. The court said on Monday it would seek Interpol "red notices" for the arrest of the four former generals.

In a rapprochement brokered by Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, last year and pledged compensation to the bereaved or hurt. Turkey was once Israel's closest regional ally, although their relationship had deteriorated before the raid.