A Turkish daily has claimed that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has identified five Turkish citizens who it claims were either among the Israeli troops who raided the Mavi Marmara or among those who interrogated the victims following the raid on the ship in May 2010.
Victims of the incident had also formerly said there were people speaking Turkish among the Israeli soldiers who took part in the attack, but the Yeni Şafak daily said, in a story which appeared on Friday, that MİT has sent, in an encoded file, the names of the five Turkish citizens to the court hearing the Mavi Marmara case in Turkey.
Uğur Yıldırım, a lawyer from the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), a nongovernmental organization which was one of the organizers of the Gaza flotilla, which, carrying humanitarian aid, had set out to break the Isreali blockade of Gaza of which the Mavi Marmara was a part, has confirmed to Today's Zaman that several victims of the raid had formerly told them they had heard some Israeli soldiers speaking Turkish on the boat, and that during the interrogation some Israeli soldiers of Turkish nationality openly told them they had been summoned by Israel to act as interpreters.
Gülden Sönmez, another lawyer from the İHH who was on the Mavi Marmara during the Israeli raid, told Today's Zaman the İHH has been receiving letters with photos or videos attached which allege that certain people were the Turkish citizens who took part in the raid. “We have delivered all these to the prosecutor's office,” she stated.
According to the daily, the names and addresses of five Turkish citizens who were allegedly part of the raid on the Mavi Marmara have been identified, at the request of the prosecutor's office, thanks to the efforts of the MİT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MİT conducted an investigation into all Turkish citizens leaving Turkey for Israel at least two weeks before and returning up to two weeks after the Mavi Marmara incident, and sent the information regarding these five Turkish citizens who are allegedly part of the Shayetet 13, an elite naval commando force of the Israeli navy which raided the boat, to the İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court.
Testimonies given by the victims of the incident during the Mavi Marmara trial, which started at the beginning of November in Turkey and in which aggravated life sentences are sought for four former top Israeli commanders -- including the country's former chief of general staff -- for their role in the brutal killings of nine of the Turkish people on the boat, revealed that some of the Israeli soldiers who took part in the raid and in the interrogation of the victims of the Gaza flotilla spoke Turkish fluently. And according to the daily, the names submitted to the court by MİT are those of Turkish citizens who were part of the Israeli operation and investigation.
The MİT investigation particularly focused on İstanbul and İzmir, two major cities where Jewish minorities live in Turkey. The investigation, conducted by MİT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is still ongoing. When all those Turkish citizens who allegedly took part in the Israeli operation have been identified, additional names will also be presented to the court. As some names have already been discovered, a second court case may also be started regarding the incident.
The court case, which began in November, is trying four former Israeli military commanders in absentia over the killing of nine people on the Mavi Marmara as it tried to break the Gaza blockade, was dismissed by Israel as a politically motivated “show trial,” and Israel has not assigned any lawyers to defend the accused.
The four accused in the trial, identified by an investigation by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, are former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Rau Aluf Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.
Turkey disputes Israeli claims that its soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists when they boarded the ship. The Israeli operation sparked worldwide condemnation, and totally disrupted diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel. Following the brutal killing of nine Turkish people on the Mavi Marmara, Turkey's top officials declared that Israel would suffer the consequences, describing the incident as “state terror.” Diplomatic relations were downgraded to the level of second secretary, and all military agreements between the two countries were suspended.
In recent months, there have been calls from Israeli officials to mend ties with Turkey, with the argument that the two countries have converging interests in the region, a region which has been going through turmoil. But for the ties to be mended, Ankara wants an official apology from Israel for the Mavi Marmara raid, reparations for the families of the activists killed on the boat and calls for the lifting of the Gaza blockade.