Israeli officers including ex-military chief of staff Rau Aluf Gabiel Ashkanazi, former head of navy Eliezer Alfred Marom, former head of air force Amos Hadlin and former head of military intelligence Avishay Levi face trial in absentia regarding their involvement in the attack on Mavi Marmara flagship in international waters in Mediterranean Sea.
The victims, the complainants and their lawyers attended the fifth hearing of the trial at 7th Criminal Court of Istanbul. A lawyer who is appointed by Istanbul Bar represents the defendants.
First of all, the victims and complainants who were called to trial by notification of the court were identified. Following the identification, their testimonies were audio-visually taken.
Prior to the hearing the chairman of IHH, Bülent Yildirim and some of the participants gave a press release in front of the court.
In his press statement, Yildirim said that the trial regarding Israel’s illegal attack at Mavi Marmara flagship in international waters and its subsequent deadly violations of rights continues.
Mavi Marmara trial; A matter of prestige for Turkey
Mr. Yıldırım noted that depending on the its results the trial has great importance not just for the victims and their relatives in Turkey but also for Palestine and the international community in terms of Turkey’s prestige.
He added: “For 3 years certain people in Turkey blocked our way. We tried to file for a lawsuit for 3 years. Now we understand who was controlling the jurisdiction. Judiciary system was under the control of “parallel establishment. We know what kind of clandestine meetings prosecutors were attending and what kind of activities they were involved in,”
"The trial will uncover the clandestine network within judiciary"
"It is curious thing that a warrant for arrest is not issued yet in this case where material evidence is so clear and witnesses are many,” he remarked.
"I am asking now who will remove the control of Israel let alone the control of parallel establishment in the judiciary system. We are all waiting. The prosecutor tried his best in spite of murderers and threats. Now the parallel establishment’s control within the judiciary is over and we will see if its influence is also over. If not, this will prove Israel has some supporters here. In terms of the critical period we are going through, this trial will show if the judiciary is independent from any clandestine networks and foreign powers manipulated by Israel. No to the control of parallel establishment and Israel within the judiciary,”
He added that families of the murdered peace activists ask for justice and arrest order for the murderers. “If the courts issues a warrant for arrest in this trial Zionist regime will come close to a punishment for its violations of human rights for the first time in world history” he pointed out.
“A decision as such will give a boost to the prestige of Turkey in terms of advocating the legal rights of its citizens subjected to international aggression,” he has also remarked.
What sets this trial apart from others is that all the activists killed at Mavi Marmara flagship were Turkish citizens. The decision of the Turkish courts will also influence the trials heard at courts in other countries including International Criminal Court regarding the aggressor Israeli soldiers.
The chairman of IHH continued his speech:
"Although the negotiations between Turkish government and Israel for compensation yields diplomatic results on political level, it is not going to work as long as the root cause is not legally resolved. It will only serve to encourage Israel by implying the idea that it can go on carrying atrocities as long as it pays the compensation. Therefore, during the negotiations the government should never give up the condition of removal of embargo and blockade on Palestine.”
Embargo and Blockage on Palestine should go with a protocol
"Compensation checked, apology checked, this is a success. But the embargo and blockade should be tied to a protocol. They made a promise. Embargo and blockade are at the top of our priorities. An apology and compensation are also important but we will not compromise about removal of blockade and embargo for those killed in Mavi Marmara and their families.”
A legal victory in the Turkish court will set an example for the other lawsuits filed by Palestinians in the international field. Therefore the trial is closely watched in the West, said Yildirim.
Yildirim also reported that Mavi Marmara flagship is repaired and refurbished already and it will receive its license to sail again soon. So new aid flotillas will be organized as long as the embargo on Palestine continues. He underlined that they will ever be ready for Israel’s aggression and they will not budge from standing by the side of oppressed people in the world.
Yildirim also reported what happened in the trial held in Kayseri and said that God will decide better for those prosecutors who were biased and unfair. When an objection came for the judge’s decision, the reply was: “Did you consult us before you went?” Yildirim expressed his rage against the court’s frivolous reply and noted that they have asked the innocent oppressed people and not the oppressors before they sailed to Gaza.
The chairman of IHH announced that a street protest will be held to commemorate Mavi Marmara incident on 31st May. He also remarked that it was Ramazan Kadirov supported by Russia who brought the IHH file to Israel. Kadirov is rumoured to be linked to the murders of Chechens in Turkey.
Journalist Hakan Albayrak also showed up to support Mavi Marmara Trial. When asked about his opinion he commentedon Israeli Foreign minister’s statement in which he says IHH represents the biggest threat to Israel. Albayrak remarked that there is huge public support backing IHH and that will enable the foundation go on with its struggle for justice.
The head of Özgür-Der, Rıdvan Kaya also attended the press conference. He said that he was here to follow the trial and give support for the sake of the fallen activists during their struggle against oppression.
“The trial here is a reflection of Palestinian cause of the ummah. This is a struggle against a 100-year-old occupation. For some the fear of Israel and USA is bigger than the fear of God. Muslims have to be fair and just. Their decisions should be as such. Palestinian people have faced so much oppression during their hundred-year-old struggle. The struggle here will uphold their cause.”
Çiğdem Topçuoğlu, the wife of one of the activists killed in Mavi Marmara said that they are going to follow the fallen activists’ path and uphold their legacy with pride.
Activists and lawyers, who had participated in the seminar on Mavi Marmara trial, also attended the press meeting for support along with civilians and released balloons that read “Free Palestine” during the press release.
Following the press releases the groups proceeded to the court to follow the trial.
The testimonies of the complainants who filed for a lawsuit:
Recep Köse who had boarded the ship in Istanbul, said that he acted as chief editor of the live broadcasting team set up in the wheelhouse of the ship. He said on the day of the incident, Israeli soldiers started shooting at the ship as they approached. Köse said: “I was following everything through the cameras. There were 3 cameras on the ship. Also the CCTV cameras were linked to the live broadcasting network. Moreover, around 500 activists on the ship had mobile phones. In brief there was no dead corner on the ship. If we put those footages back to back we will see clearly who did what on the ship. During the course of the incident our connection through satellite was jammed we were disconnected to the internet.
“I want my son forget all that happened”
"It was for the first time that I felt so strong smell of blood” said Köse. He told that there was a total chaos when the raid started. He could bring himself to give his testimony 4 years after the event.
“I had a son 4 years ago. Now I have 3 children. My family and I psychologically suffered after the event. I want justice. Either we are criminals or they. Just like how we waited to be delivered from there that day, we are waiting for justice to be served today. My son was 6 years old at the time. He had not started schooling. Now when he plays with gun toys he wants to be an Israeli soldier. Because the shooting party was Israel. He does not want to be the other party. In other words he does not want to be killed. I want my son to forget all that happened. I want a resolution at the court. If we demand the footage of the raid from Israel everything will be clear" he said in his speech.
“What we went through was torturing.”
Ümit Sönmez who testified as a complainant said that Israel has footages of the raid and if Israel agrees to share them the truth will be uncovered. He said that those footages will prove who is the murderer and who is the innocent. He told that during the raid he was beaten by Israeli marines and was injured on his shoulder.
"After that event, I developed diabetes. Sometimes they ask me “Were you tortured?” What we went through was already torturing. I was handcuffed as they were beating me up. They made me sit down with kicks. The interrogating officers insulted me during interrogation. Foreign female activists were also beaten up. I boarded the ship with my wife. We said farewell to each other at the back of the ship’s deck keeping in mind that we may not see each other again. All our fellow friends including Bülent Yıldirim were interrogated for hours.”
Sönmez said that he would make his complaint and ended his testimony with his last wish: “I would like those Israeli marines who shot at us while hovering above the ship”
“They had arms and trained dogs”
Sadreddin Furkan who testified as a complainant said that he applied to join the Mavi Marmara flagship as a humanitarian relief volunteer. He described how the events unfolded: “Israeli vessels started to appear at the distance. At 4.30 am they were quite close. In the meantime, Muslim activists started perform their morning prayers. Around 30-40 boats surrounded the ship.
The marines started to shoot as they started to land on the ship. They tried to land on the ship for half an hour. After they failed to land on the ship they started to shoot from the helicopter hovering above us. In the meantime an Israeli soldier who landed on the deck was neutralized by our fellow friends.
Meanwhile our fellow friend Cengiz Akyüz was killed. I was shot at my right foot and started to bleed out a lot. Within 2 hours Israeli marines took over the ship. The Israeli marines who landed on the ship had masks on their faces.
They were armed and had trained dogs with them. Afterwards the soldiers pointed their guns at the wounded although we were knackered. We were later hospitalized. They injected us with an unknown substance. When I gained consciousness I was stripped naked. During the interrogation they asked questions including “Why did you come to Israel?” and “You have beaten up our fellow soldier, haven’t you?” I told them that I have beaten up no one. I cannot use my leg as well as I used to. I have complaints.”
In the 5th hearing of Mavi Marmara trial the witnesses were heard. The next hearing will be held on 26th May 2014, which coincides with the anniversary week of the attack on Mavi Marmara flagship.