Turkish call to drop Gaza ship case against Israelis

AFP , Friday 2 Dec 2016

A Turkish prosecutor called Friday called for charges related to a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship to be dropped following diplomatic reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, state media reported.

Nine Turkish activists died when Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara as it headed to the Gaza Strip in 2010, and a 10th died in hospital in 2014.

The raid triggered a crisis in relations, with both countries withdrawing their respective ambassadors from the country capitals, though diplomatic ties were never fully severed.

The bitter rift came to an end in June this year after they held long-running secret talks in third countries with Israel offering an apology over the raid and $20 million in compensation.

Israel also agreed to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza as part of the agreement.

Under the terms of the deal, both sides also agreed individual Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the Israeli government would not be held liable -- either criminally or financially -- for the raid.

On Friday the prosecutor told an Istanbul court that the case against the Israeli individuals should be dropped because of the agreement, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

Prosecutors had been seeking life sentences for the alleged involvement of former military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.

The demand is likely to anger families and lawyers, who told AFP in October they had no intention of dropping the lawsuits despite the deal.

One of the final key elements of returning to normal relations was the exchange of ambassadors, which will formally take place this month.

Israel's envoy Eitan Naeh arrived in Ankara on Thursday, and he is due to present his letter of credence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan within days.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's policy advisor Kemal Okem will start work as Turkey's ambassador to Israel on December 12, Anadolu said on Friday.

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