Ehud Barak, who was the Israeli Minister of Defense when Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip, and killed nine Turkish nationals and an American, will be tried.
Sir Geoffrey Nice, who worked on the International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic; Rodney Dixon, who defends Egypt's deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, and lawyer Hakan Camuz filed a case.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, based in Jerusalem, said in a statement that the lawsuit "is yet another attempt to abuse otherwise legitimate legal tools for the cynical, political purpose of attacking the State of Israel." "We are confident that the United States will not lend its hand to such abuse," said Nahshon, who does not speak for Barak. "A United Nations panel found the raid was "excessive and unreasonable," but it also blamed Turkey. The panel said Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was legally imposed as a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons smuggling, but it added that the killing of the nine activists was unacceptable," AP reported.
Dan Stormer, a Los Angeles attorney whose firm filed the lawsuit, said Barak is a "war criminal" and he should be held accountable for his actions.
"Now, for the first time in five years, one of the perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara massacre has been served," Stormer said. "It's time for that responsibility to mean more than lip service."
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 ended in tragedy after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish nationals, including Furkan Doğan, 19, an American of Turkish origin, in a bloody raid of the Mavi Marmara. Another Turkish national, Uğur Süleyman Söylemez, died in the hospital in 2014 after being in a coma for almost four years. Israeli officials were sued by victims in Istanbul over the deadly raid in the first case of its kind filed against Israel. It is expected that the case in Turkey will be the first of many such cases filed seeking to hold Israel criminally liable.
The case against Israel is a public case and there are a total of 490 victims and complainants, including the relatives of the victims of the Mavi Marmara attack and those who were victimized by the attack for different reasons. Four Israeli high officials are being tried in absentia. At a hearing, Istanbul's 7th High Criminal Court ordered the arrests of former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Force Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi. Investigations into other Israeli military officers or civilians who took part in the attack continue.
The indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office accuses the perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara attack of willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, arbitrary detention and arrest, violation of the freedom of expression, qualified robbery, illegal seizure of personal items and illegal capture of a sea vehicle among other charges, and seeks prison sentences totaling thousands of years in total for the suspects for each offense.
"From Nuremberg and Tokyo to the Balkans, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, there is a tradition around the world of holding military leaders accountable for their crimes against civilians," said international human rights lawyer Rodney Dixon, who works on the case with leading international lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice.
"Casting that tradition aside mocks justice and gives political and military leaders free reign to wield violence indiscriminately. There is compelling evidence that war crimes were committed in the Gaza flotilla raid, and the U.S courts have jurisdiction to address that." "It is well accepted before international and national courts that state officials who have left office can be held accountable for their actions," said international human rights attorney Haydeé Dijkstal. "This civil case will require Ehud Barak to answer allegations as to his role in planning and ordering the attack which killed Furkan Doğan."
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