|Photo by: REUTERS/Osman Orsa|
Turkey resumes Gaza flotilla trial for ex-IDF heads
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
Israel says trial in absentia against Ashkenazi, other retired senior IDF commanders is politically motivated.
The trial in absentia, at an Istanbul court, of a group of former Israeli
military commanders including former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi
Ashkenazi, regarding the May 2010 flotilla from Turkey resumed on Thursday. The
focus was on the circumstances of the IDF’s taking over the Mavi Marmara and the
alleged mistreatment of the passengers.
The officers are being charged
with the deaths of nine Turks aboard one of the ships in the 2010 flotilla
attempt to break the Gaza blockade, and a number of other crimes.
trial of the four senior retired commanders, started in November with three
consecutive days of hearings, but then recessed until Thursday.
been dismissed by Israel as a politically motivated “show trial” and threatens
to further strain already fraught relations.
A top government legal
official recently implied to The Jerusalem Post that the trial was even less
objective than the Goldstone Report on the 2008-2009 Gaza War.
between Jerusalem and what was once its only Muslim ally crumbled after the
incident in which some of the soldiers who tried to forcibly commandeer the ship
were injured in clashes with those on board, leaving nine of the passengers
Whereas the first three days of the trial focused on the murder
allegations, Thursday’s hearing focused on allegations of mistreatment, such as
physical harm short of death, sexual harassment, theft of property and
violations of freedom of the press.
According to media and Twitter
accounts of the case, the first witness on Thursday was a crew member of the
Mavi Marmara who testified that the IDF perpetrated an inhumane attack which
caused him permanent health problems.
The crew member testified that he
was forced to enter Israel at gun point, was interrogated for hours and was
treated as a terrorist.
The ship’s assistant captain said, “I was
handcuffed for 16 hours after they took over the deck.”
complained that they were sexually harassed, that private belongings were taken
and never returned, and media passengers complained that their right to freedom
of the press was violated by their broadcasts being cut off.
also testified that there was no warning prior to the attack.
of the IDF’s warnings has been hotly debated.
The UN-sponsored Palmer
Report, which generally exonerated Israel’s positions on the issues in dispute
said that regardless of earlier warnings to the ships, the IDF failed to issue a
warning right before commandeering the vessels.
The Turkel Commission
noted that the IDF gave four warnings to the ships earlier on, which the ships
alternately ignored, or responded with taunts, such as “Shut up, go back to
In November, reports indicated that the witnesses included
statements from the families of the nine dead passengers and people from other
ships in the flotilla, as well as surviving activists from the Mavi
Ahmed Dogan, father of 19- year-old Furkan Dogan, the youngest
of the dead passengers, said he had seen evidence that his son had been “shot in
the face,” according to the reports.
Mary Ann Wright, a 65- year-old
former US Army colonel who was aboard the nearby Challenger 1 ship, testified
about the scale of the military force involved in stopping the flotilla, as well
as the soldiers’ conduct vis-a-vis firing paintballs and tossing stun grenades.
According to the reports, Wright said she believed that such a force could only
have been meant to attack.
Neither Thursday’s nor November’s reports
could be confirmed and no Israeli officials were present at the trial to make
objections or cross-examine the witnesses.
It has also been difficult to
decipher what aspects of the testimony were part of the overall narratives of
alleged mistreatment and what were actual allegations of crimes, as claims of
“torture” were combined with passengers’ complaints of having their hands tied
behind their back or being otherwise physically restrained in what they say was
a rough manner.
The 144-page indictment is seeking multiple life
sentences totaling over 18,000 years for each of the defendants – Ashkenazi,
former navy head V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head
Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and former head of air force intelligence
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avishay Levi. It lists “inciting murder through cruelty or
torture,” and “inciting injury with firearms,” among the charges.
reports indicated that the Istanbul Bar Association had appointed lawyers to
defend the former IDF commanders, but no details were provided on their
identities, or on any actions they took on behalf of the
Israel has dismissed the case as “political theater,” saying
the accused had not even been notified of the charges.
Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after the UNsponsored Palmer
Commission report into the 2010 incident released last September largely
exonerated Israel by calling the Gaza blockade legal under international law.