Turkish prosecutors seek life sentences for Israeli raid commanders

AFP, Wednesday 23 May 2012

Turkish prosecutors call for life sentences for four Israeli commanders responsible for the killing of nine activists during the 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, an incident that severely weakened the Turkish-Israeli ties

Photo of the siege of the Freedom Flotilla in 2009. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish prosecutors want life sentences for four Israeli commanders held responsible for the killing of nine activists in a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, Anatolia news agency said Wednesday.

The prosecutors have finalised their investigation into the incident that wrecked relations between once regional allies Turkey and Israel and prepared an indictment to be forwarded to an Istanbul court.

Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-flagged vessel, the Mavi Marmara, which was the largest ship in a flotilla aimed at breaking the Gaza blockade, on May 31, 2010, leaving nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

After Israel's refusal to apologise and compensate the victims of the armed assault, Turkey dramatically downgraded its relations with the Jewish state, expelling its ambassador and cutting military ties.

The 144-page indictment called for nine life sentences to be given to each of the four commanders including Israel's former chief of the general staff Gabi Ashkenazi and three ex-commanders for their involvement in the raid, said Anatolia.

The indictment legitimised the activists' response to the armed assault as a right to "self-defence."

Any trial would be held in the absence of the accused, Israel having ruled out any prosecution of those who took part in the attack.

A United Nations report into the raid last September accused Israel of acting with "excessive force" in the operation.

But it endorsed the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, which the Jewish state says is necessary to prevent the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave, from obtaining weapons.

Prosecutors had earlier demanded names of the Israelis involved in the raid through the foreign ministry but after the Israeli refusal they based the indictment on testimonies and the Israel's own report submitted to the United Nations.

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