A Turkish court on Tuesday opened a trial in absentia for former Israeli military commanders accused of killing nine Turkish citizens aboard a ship attempting to pass through the Gaza blockade in 2010. The Turkish judge began the proceedings with testimony [Reuters report] from people who were on board the flotilla, as well as from relatives of the deceased. Prosecutors have demanded life in prison [AP report] for the Israeli commanders involved in the May 2010 raid to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The case illustrates tension between Turkey and Israel, which have previously maintained close diplomatic ties. Israel has criticized the trial of the four Israeli commanders, dismissing the proceedings as politically motivated. Hundreds of protestors showed up outside the courthouse to voice their opposition to the actions of these commanders. Turkey has demanded an end to the Gaza blockade, a formal apology and compensation for the victims and their family.
The Gaza blockade has been highly criticized by the international community. In July 50 aid groups and UN offices signed a joint statement urging Israel to end its blockade [JURIST report] of the Gaza Strip, calling it a violation of international law. Among the signatories were Amnesty International, the World Health Organization and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The joint statement followed a call by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos to end the blockade [JURIST report], which she argued deprives Gaza residents of basic humanitarian needs. Human Rights Watch in February urged Israel [JURIST report] to change its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank.