Ankara denies probe into Turkish Jews over Mavi Marmara

 Ankara denies probe into Turkish Jews over Mavi Marmara

A banner depicting the faces of the nine men killed, displayed on the Mavi Marmara ship, the lead boat of a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos in a predawn confrontation in the Mediterranean on May 31, 2010, on its returns, in İstanbul on Dec. 26, 2010. (Photo: AP, Burhan Özbilici)

December 22, 2012, Saturday/ 16:21:00

Turkey has strongly denied media reports that it has launched a probe into some of the country's Jewish citizens on suspicions that they collaborated with Israel in the deadly 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, which killed eight Turks and one Turkish American.

"There has never been anti-Semitism in any part of our history and there will never be. Racism does not exist in the culture and the tradition of the Turkish nation. Turkey has repeatedly said it considers anti-Semitism and racism crimes against humanity,” Selçuk Ünal, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Saturday.

Ünal said legal procedures are underway to identify possible perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara incident, adding that those legal procedures have nothing to do with Turkey's “Jewish community, who are equal citizens and an integral part of our society.”

The Turkish media claimed last week that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had identified five Turkish citizens who were allegedly 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

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that there is no basis for this news published with reference to certain Turkish institutions.

“It is clear that these press reports, which have been picked up by the foreign press, particularly in the US, have been exploited, leading to some misperceptions,” the statement added.

The statement noted that Turkey is also saddened to see that the way the developments in these legal proceedings are presented has been discomforting and troubling “our Jewish citizens.”

“We cannot accept the generalized presentation of allegations regarding possible perpetrators of the incident in a way that targets the Turkish Jewish community, who are a part of our society and equal citizens of Turkey,” it said.

The statement also stressed that at no point in Turkey's history has there been any anti-Semitism, that there is none today, and there will be none in the future. It underlined that racism has no place in Turkey's culture or traditions and that it is well known that Turkey for centuries has been a safe haven for Jews and others fleeing from persecution.

Moreover, it added, Turkish authorities at the highest levels have on numerous occasions emphasized that Turkey regards anti-Semitism and racism as crimes against humanity.

Ankara said it strongly rejects recent efforts -- referring to some news reports in the international press -- to try to create a perception that there exists a certain attitude towards Jewish citizens in Turkey.

Ankara said it strongly rejects recent efforts - based on some news reports in the international press - to try to create a perception that there exists a specific attitude towards Jewish citizens in Turkey.

According to the reports, 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 efforts by MİT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 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 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, the reports said. The Israeli media claimed after the reports that the investigation targets Turkey's Jewish community, which they claim could suffer a backlash as a result of the investigation.

Eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American were killed when the Israeli navy attacked an international humanitarian aid flotilla, of which the Mavi Marmara was a part, attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Following the attack, Turkey described the raid as a violation of international law “tantamount to banditry and piracy” and called the killings of activists “state-sponsored terrorism.”

Ankara wants an official apology from Israel for the raid as well as compensation for relatives of the Mavi Marmara victims and continues to call for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. None of the demands have so far been accepted by the Israeli government.

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