A state prosecutor has denied asking the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to identify Israeli soldiers and commanders involved in a May 2010 attack on a turkish aid ship, saying a list of Israelis -- reportedly prepared as a result of a facebook search -- has been drawn up by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), the Turkish charity that owned the raided ship.
İstanbul Deputy Public Prosecutor Ateş Hasan Sözen told Today's Zaman that the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office did not order any state institution to identify the soldiers. “No state institution had such a request, nor does it have any information on this. The prosecutor conducting the investigation has given no such order,” Sözen said. He noted that İHH lawyer Uğur Yıldırım submitted the list in question to the prosecutor's office at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, on the same day when a Turkish daily published the list. Sözen added that the prosecutor will now examine the list.
The statement comes in response to a report by the Sabah daily on Monday which said MİT, responding to a request from the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office, had obtained information on the identities of the Israeli soldiers who killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American in last year's flotilla raid, identifying almost all of the soldiers who took part in the deadly raid through Facebook.
Sabah alleged in its story that the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office had earlier written to Israeli authorities requesting the full names and residential addresses of the military and government officials who gave the orders to attack the flotilla, in addition to information about those who carried out the orders. Israel refused to provide the information, so the prosecutor asked MİT to share any intelligence information it had so far collected about the Israeli raid.
Sabah said that upon the request of Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the prosecutor conducting the investigation, intelligence units first examined images of the raid and then launched “a commando hunt” on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. They also reportedly examined pictures of a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the top-security Flotilla 13 base on the Israeli coast near Haifa, which conducted the flotilla raid, in October of last year, to identify the soldiers present. After identifying a few soldiers, Hebrew-speaking experts examined their online correspondence with other Israeli soldiers who are thought to have taken part in the Mavi Marmara raid, and were able to identify more of those involved via their "friends" lists on Facebook. The names of the soldiers were also reportedly confirmed by the Turkish intelligence units' sources in Israel.
According to Sabah, a total of 174 people, including the soldiers who are thought to have taken part in the raid and those who ordered the attack, were put in a diagram by the prosecutor, who ranked them according to their level of responsibility for the raid. According to the report by Turkish intelligence units, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is the number one person who is responsible for the raid, but the prosecutor's diagram includes only the names of military officials responsible for the raid.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom and Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin top the prosecutor's diagram. They are followed by two commanders of Shayetet (the navy's elite commando unit Flotilla 13), Ami Ayalon and Zeev Almog, as well as two unidentified officers who commanded the raid on the Mavi Marmara. According to Sabah, the prosecutor also has pictures of 148 soldiers believed to have been involved. The prosecutor will now reportedly ask the Israeli authorities, via the Turkish Ministry of Justice, to confirm whether the soldiers identified indeed took part in the raid.
Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of an international humanitarian aid flotilla which tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in May of last year. A United Nations report about the raid, released earlier this month, stated that activists on board the Mavi Marmara attacked the raiding naval commandos. It went on to describe the blockade of Gaza as legitimate, although it also accused Israel of using disproportionate force against the activists.
Turkey's government rejected the report's findings, saying it would never recognize the blockade's legitimacy, and insisted on an Israeli apology as well as compensation for the deaths as a precondition for the normalization of a relationship once seen as a cornerstone of regional stability. Turkey has also downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and suspended all military agreements.