by Yaakov Katz, JPost.com Staff
Court unanimously approves indictment seeking life sentences for four former top IDF brass over flotilla raid; Ashkenazi: If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey - I am willing to pay that price.Former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday that he hoped common sense would prevail, in response to reports that a Turkish high criminal court had unanimously accepted an indictment seeking life sentences for him and three others over the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid. He also expressed hope that Turkey would reestablish diplomatic ties with Israel.
OC Israel Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former IAF intelligence head Brig.-Gen. Avishai Levy were also charged in the indictment which seeks nine counts of aggravated life imprisonment. The former IDF commander were charged over their alleged involvement in the killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman and the Andalou Agency reported Monday.
"From the beginning of the affair, I appeared before every forum, sometimes on my own, to defend IDF soldiers who performed their job out in the field on behalf of Israel," Ashkenazi said. "If the price of what I did is not being able to visit Turkey - I am willing to pay that price."
Relations between the regional powers deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara aid vessel in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board the ship.
Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and froze all military cooperation after a UN report into the incident released last September largely exonerated the Jewish state.
On February 8, 2011, the report of Israel’s Turkel Commission that examined the events surrounding the protest flotilla held that “the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip... was legal pursuant to the rules of international law.”
Moreover, the “actions carried out by Israel on May 31, 2010, to enforce the naval blockade had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries.
“Nonetheless, and despite the limited instances of uses of force for which we could not reach a conclusion, the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law.”
In September, Turkey threatened to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the Marmara raid.
Senior IDF officials have said they are taking legal precautions to protect soldiers and officers who participated in the operation to stop the Mavi Marmara.
The IDF Military Advocate- General’s Office established a joint team with the Justice Ministry to study the UN-commissioned Palmer Report, released in September 2011, which justified Israel’s decision to impose a sea blockade on the Gaza Strip but also criticized the navy’s operation to stop the Gaza-bound flotilla.
The report said that “the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable.”
The team was studying the legal consequences of the report and possible ways to provide protections to IDF soldiers.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had tried to broker a compromise with Turkey in an effort to minimize the legal exposure of the commandos.
Reuters, Yaakov Katz and Oren Kessler contributed to this report.
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