The families of self-proclaimed Turkish ‘peace activists’ killed in a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, say they will not drop their legal cases despite a deal between Turkey and Israel.
The Mavi Marmara was at the center of an international media fire-storm during the 2010 flotilla when self-proclaimed ‘peace activists’ on board attempted to lynch members of the IDF Shayetet-13 – Israel’s naval commando unit – which boarded the ship in accordance with international maritime law.
Nine Turk members of the lynch-mob were killed when the commandos were forced to open fire to save their imperiled comrades. One more died in the hospital in 2014.
Ties between Israel and Turkey crumbled after the raid, but in June they finally agreed to end the bitter six-year row after months-long secret talks.
Israel had offered an apology over the raid, permission for Turkish aid to reach Gaza through Israeli ports, and a payout of $20 million to the families of those killed.
Turkish officials confirmed the amount was transferred to the justice ministry account last month.
Under the deal, both sides agreed that individual Israeli citizens or those acting on behalf of the government would not be held liable.
Families of the terrorists however say they will press on with their legal battle until the alleged ‘perpetrators’ are brought to justice.
Cigdem Topcuoglu, an academic from southern Adana province, said her husband was killed as the couple embarked on the ship.
“We are certainly not accepting the compensation,” she told AFP in Istanbul. “They will come and kill your husband next to you and say ‘take this money, keep your mouth shut and give up on the case’. Would you accept that?”
In total, there were six ships in the flotilla that were boarded in international waters about 130km from the Israeli coast.
After the deal with Israel, an Istanbul court on October 19 held another hearing in the trial of the four former Israeli military commanders, though it was later adjourned to December 2.
Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for former military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.
“We have no intention to drop the lawsuits,” Topcuoglu said.
Human rights lawyer Rodney Dixon said the criminal case against the accused must go on “at all costs”.
“We are strongly supporting the case here in Turkey and our very firm plea to the court has been that they must continue with the case,” he said.
“The so-called agreement between Israel and Turkey is not a treaty that is enforceable. It is unlawful under international law, under the convention on human rights and Turkish law.”
Families say they were not informed of any details about the deal with Israel and they have not received any money.
Ismail Songur, whose father died in the raid, said: “Nobody from the Turkish government asked our opinion before they struck a deal. “Unfortunately the Turkish government is becoming a part of the lawlessness carried out by Israel.”
“Even if families of the victims accept the money, that would not affect the case,” said Gulden Sonmez, one of the lawyers in the trial and also a passenger on the ship.
“That is a criminal suit, not a suit for compensation. The $20 million is an ex gratia payment. It’s a donation and cannot be accepted as compensation.”