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Turkish criminal court approves indictment against Israel officials

An Istanbul criminal court on Monday unanimously approved a 144-page indictment against four Israeli military leaders for their involvement in the killing of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists during the May 2010 flotilla incident [JURIST news archive]. The prosecution is seeking 10 life jail sentences against former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi, Navy commander Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, military intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin, and the head of Air Force intelligence, Brigadier General Avishai Levi. Israel has denied the allegations against its former military officials and argued that they acted in self-defense. A 2011 UN report [text, PDF] summarizing the findings of an investigation into the May 2010 flotilla incident revealed that although Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal, Israel used excessive force in dealing with the situation. It is questionable whether Turkey will be able to compel the four officials to appear before the Turkish court due to its lack of jurisdiction over them and an international warrant. Additionally, the court's approval of the indictment [NY Times report] only means that the accused cannot enter Turkey, not that they are restrained from leaving Israel because they are not viewed as criminals in their home country. Israel has not apologized for the incident.

The relationship between Israel and Turkey deteriorated after Israel's Gaza blockade. In September, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu [official profile] announced [JURIST report] that Turkey will take Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] for the legality of Israel's Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] blockade. In February of the last year, contrary to the UN report, the Turkish investigation into the flotilla incident concluded, after a year of investigation [JURIST reports], that Israel's naval blockade was illegal in violation of international law and that the Israeli soldiers used excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force on unarmed civilians as part of a full-fledged and well-planned attack. This report was also in direct contradiction to the findings of Israel's Turkel Commission [official website] which concluded that Israel did not violate [JURIST report] international law.

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