Turkish prosecutors go after Israeli politicians

June 05, 2010, Saturday/ 18:59:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Israel’s prime minister, defense minister and chief of General Staff are among the prime suspects in an investigation initiated by the İstanbul Bakırköy Prosecutor’s Office into Monday’s military operation against a Gaza-bound civilian aid flotilla that left nine peace activists, all of whom were Turkish citizens, dead.

The İstanbul Bakırköy Prosecutor’s Office has started a probe into Israel’s attack. Commandos stormed one of the main ships in the six-vessel flotilla, killing nine and injuring dozens of unarmed civilians in international waters. Prosecutor Mehmet Taştan, who serves at the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office Directives Bureau, is also aiding the Bakırköy prosecutors. He listened to the testimonies of some of the wounded who were brought to Ankara by a Turkish air ambulance.

Among the prosecutors’ evidence are the autopsy reports of the eight Turkish citizens and one US-Turkish dual citizen who were killed in the attack. If the prosecutor’s office can compile enough evidence against Israel at the end of its probe, it will charge Israeli officials with various crimes, including murder, injury, taking hostages, attacking Turkish citizens on the open seas and piracy. The main suspects in the investigation thus far are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Prosecutor Taştan interviewed all the injured on Wednesday in a hospital in Ankara except for intensive care unit patients. Taştan will send the testimonies to the Bakırköy Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Some 500 activists who were aboard the flotilla vessels were brought to Turkey on Wednesday. The survivors were examined at the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) to provide more evidence about the attack. The detailed autopsy findings will also be used as evidence against Israel. The reports will include information on the cause of death and the form of death by firearms, such as if they were shot at close range. The ATK is also running tests to see whether any chemical weapons were used against the peace activists.

Turkey’s foreign and justice ministries are also closely following the investigation, which might end up with the indictment of those responsible for the raid. The trial of these suspects will be based on the international Law of the Sea Convention and universal principles regarding a fair trial. To demonstrate that Israel’s intervention was illegal, the prosecutors will emphasize that the ships were in international waters, that the people aboard had waved a white flag of surrender, that the ships were carrying humanitarian aid, that the passengers did not threaten Israel and that no permission for intervention was given by the ships’ captains or countries under whose flags they were sailing. Concrete evidence, such as firing at the victims at close range, and the testimonies of victims will also be included as evidence. If in the meantime an investigatory committee is set up in Israel, the prosecutor’s office will also make use of that commission’s findings.

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