Gaza flotilla victims slam Israel deal

MWC News

Israel is expected to sign a compensation deal with Turkey soon over the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists, including eight Turkish nationals and one US citizen, who were part of a mission to deliver humanitarian aid from Turkey to the Palestinian territory of Gaza by ship in an attempt to break a longstanding and crippling Israeli blockade.

The anticipated agreement aims to ease a diplomatic crisis between the two countries over the deadly raid on the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla", which also resulted in the injuries of scores of other activists. mavi.jpg

Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said in a statement that the final text of the deal had come one month earlier from Israel, but that financial compensation would be determined following Turkey's upcoming elections with a legal document, and would then be sent to the Turkish Parliament for consent.

However, the families of victims of the raid have refused to withdraw their court cases, which were launched in Turkey over Israel's raid, even if an agreement is reached and said that their cases should not be included in the context of the compensation deal.

They have also continued to demand that Israel lift the blockade on Gaza.

Ismail Bilgen, the son of Ibrahim Bilgen, one of those who had lost his life in the raid, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli perpetrators must be held accountable for the attacks, which Tel Aviv claimed were made in defence against armed activists.

18-year-old Furkan Dogan was also killed in the raid. His father Ahmet Dogan said that they were not informed of contents of the agreement between Turkey and Israel.

"We will probably be informed after the agreement is signed," he added.

Cigdem Topcuoglu, who lost her husband Cetin Topcuoglu during the raid, stated that the contents of the agreement are important for her.

She said that "the priority for us is that the blockade on Gaza is lifted" and that the continuation of the cases has the same importance for them.

Cihat Gokdemir, one of the lawyers representing the victims of the raid, warned that all the court cases would be dismissed if the agreement with Israel is passed by Turkey's parliament.

This means that the criminal case is dismissed as it turns into a public case. In this situation, the fifth hearing to be held tomorrow may be the last trial of the case.

'Historical responsibility'

According to Gokdemir, it is highly improbable that the agreement would be passed the Turkish Parliament.

"Any parliament member, whether from the AKP, MHP, CHP or BDP, will never allow an agreement of this kind to be legalised and to be approved by the assembly. This is a historical responsibility".

Bulent Yildirim, the head of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (?HH), the organization of the Mavi Marmara ship, said that even if an agreement is reached, the cases will be considered separately

On the issue of the compensation to be paid by Israel, he states that no amount would be sufficient or relevant.

Yildirum says that in a meeting with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in the Dolmabahce Palace last month,  Erdogan had brought up the topic and informed him of the current situation.

"Erdogan said to me: "The issue of the lawsuits does not involve us, because it is a decision to be made by the families of the martyrs’.

According to Y?ld?r?m, the prime minister believes that the court cases against Israel will not be dismissed.

Bid for ICC trial

Following the raid, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (?HH) and the injured parties made an official complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In May of 2013, Turkish lawyers applied to the ICC with the authorisation of the African state of the Comorros Islands which the ship was registered to. Comorros Islands is a party to the ICC that has authority to launch a lawsuit against Israel, but can Israel be put on a trial by a court it does not recognise?

Lawyer Cihat Gokdemir, who applied to the ICC for a trial over the raid, explains the process as such: "Normally, there are 3 ways to apply yo the International Criminal Court.  One of these is to procure a mandate by the United Nations General Council, the second is to procure a mandate by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). However, in the Mavi Marmara incident we could not do this as neither Israel not Turkey were party to the ICC. But there was a third way. In a massacre incident in Kenya the injured parties had applied to the court directly and the ICC had taken this incident as a lawsuit, so we took this example and opened a case for the injured parties however this was a weak application."

Comorros authorisation

Gokdemir states that upon learning that the ship was registered to the Comorros islands, IHH carried out a meeting with the Comorros Islands, and two years later received the authorisation from the Comorros.

Negotiations took long because the Comorros is a very small country with little power and thus were wary of being involved in an international political case.

"The ICC announced four hours after our application that the case was acceptable," he said.

Besides Turkey, a case has been opened over the Mavi Marmara raid in South Africa. In an investigation opened in Spain a prosecutor requested that the case be sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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