Trial in absentia of Israeli commanders in Mavi Marmara raid opens in Turkey

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Turkish court began a trial in absentia for four Israeli military commanders responsible for the raid on the Mavi Marmara ship.

The court case against former Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as former Navy Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and former Air Force Brig.-Gen. Avishai Levi, opened Tuesday in Istanbul. The charges reportedly include manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, causing bodily harm, deprivation of freedom, plundering, damage to property and illegal confiscation of property.

The Israelis could be sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Some 490 people who were aboard the ship during the raid, including activists and journalists, are scheduled to testify. The trial reportedly will be officially recorded by television cameras, although not immediately broadcast.

Nine Turkish citizens died when Israeli Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, on May 31, 2010 after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal. The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to be illegal. Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and to lift the Gaza blockade. The two countries have severed diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

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