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Turkey Tries Israeli Commanders in Absentia

Samara Greenberg

Turkey on Tuesday began a trial in absentia for four retired Israeli military commanders over the 2010 death of nine passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara ship bound for Gaza. In support of the trial, hundreds of people gathered outside the Istanbul courthouse chanting, “Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!” The Humanitarian Relief Fund, or IHH, which owns the ship and organized the flotilla, erected a board that protesters wrote on, declaring: “Israel, your end is near,” “Down with Israel,” and “The revenge of our martyrs will be bitter.”

Turkish prosecutors are requesting life imprisonment for the officers who directed the raid. Among the charges listed against them are “inciting murder through cruelty or torture” and “inciting injury with firearms.” Israel, for its part, has dismissed the event as a “show trial.” According to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, “The so-called accused were not even informed or served or notified that they were going to be charged, which makes this one big puppet show.”

Protesters shout anti-Israel slogans outside the courthouse where Israeli commanders are being tried in absentia. (Photo: Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Ankara has used the Mavi Marmara incident to rupture relations with Israel; their sharing of intelligence information and joint military exercises came to a halt in its aftermath. This, despite the fact that a United Nations report on the raid concluded that the ship “acted recklessly” and the Israeli commandos faced “organized and violent resistance” on board, requiring them to use force for self-protection. The report also questioned the “true nature and objectives” of the IHH, and found Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza to be legal and appropriate.

Turkey maintains that relations with Israel will only be normalized once Israel apologizes for the raid, compensates the relatives of those who died, and lifts its blockade on Gaza. But these are impossible demands to ask of Israel that, in addition to the trial of Israeli commanders, illustrates Ankara is not at all interested in repairing relations.