Flotilla raid victims to pursue Israel in court despite apology

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2013

Despite long-awaited apology from Israeli premier Netanyahu, victims of Israeli flotilla raid say they will not withdraw their lawsuit seeking criminal action

Pro-Palestinian activists said on Monday they would not withdraw a lawsuit against Israeli commanders for a fatal 2010 raid on their Gaza-bound flotilla, ahead of official compensation talks between Turkey and the Jewish state this week.

"We will not discuss compensation or give up on the trials until the blockade over Gaza is removed," said Musa Cogas, one of the activists who was on board the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade.

His comments came ahead of official compensation talks between Turkey and Israel on Thursday.

The talks follow a breakthrough apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month for the deaths of nine Turks during the raid.

The US-brokered apology ended a three-year diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, which asked for a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victim to fully normalise ties.

"The apology means Israel is confessing to its crime... and has a diplomatic significance but that means nothing to us," said Ahmet Varol, a columnist for the Turkish Islamist daily Akit and another of the activists on board the flotilla.

"The flotilla set sail to get the embargo lifted over Gaza and the blockade removed and we are clearly not there yet," Varol said.

Prosecutors at the high-profile Istanbul trial that opened in November are seeking life sentences for four top Israeli military chiefs over the deadly maritime assault. The next hearing is scheduled for 20 May.

From a legal perspective, payment of compensation would not lead to the withdrawal of a "public lawsuit" seeking criminal action, a plaintiff lawyer told AFP.

"But there are some 40 separate compensation cases which might be settled in response to such payment," lawyer Ugur Yildirim added.

He was referring to dozens of compensation lawsuits filed in October by families of the nine victims as well as several others seeking a symbolic compensation of 1 Turkish lira ($0.56, 0.43 euros) from the Jewish state.

All in all, the total compensation sought by the plaintiffs at courts across Turkey reaches 10 million Turkish lira. "More lawsuits might be on the way," according to Yildirim.

Israeli officials have in the past slammed Turkey for carrying out the Istanbul trial, which they described as a "propaganda showcase".

Turkish officials previously said the compensation talks might lead to the withdrawal of the lawsuit but activists insist they will pursue their case until "justice is served".

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