Following Turkish-Israeli reconciliation agreement, first tranche of supplies is delivered to Gaza through Israel.
The families of Turkish citizens killed in a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship have vowed to pursue criminal cases against those accused despite a deal between Turkey and the Jewish state.
“We have no intention to drop the lawsuits,” Cigdem Topcuoglu, whose husband was killed as the couple embarked on the ship, told the AFP news agency on Friday. “We are certainly not accepting the compensation.”
Nine Turks died when Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara vessel, which was part of a six-ship aid flotilla trying to break an Israeli navy blockade of the Gaza Strip. A tenth Turk died in hospital in 2014.
“They will come and kill your husband next to you and say ‘take this money, keep your mouth shut and give up on the case’. Would you accept that?” Topcuoglu, an academic, said.
Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish Islamic charity that organised the flotilla, IHH, said the case would never end.
“Those who believe the case would drop will be disappointed,” he said.
Ties between Israel and Turkey crumbled after the raid, but in June this year, they announced a deal after months of secret talks.
Under the deal, Israel agreed to apologise for the raid, grant permission for Turkish aid to reach the Palestinian territory through Israeli ports, and make a payment of $20 million to the families of those killed.
Both sides agreed that individual Israeli citizens, or those acting on behalf of the government, would not be held liable.
Turkish officials confirmed the money was transferred to the justice ministry account last month.
But relatives of the victims insist they will continue their fight until the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice. Some say they were not informed of the deal with Israel and they have not received any money.
Ismail Songur, whose father was killed in the raid, said: “Nobody from the Turkish government asked our opinion before they struck a deal. Unfortunately, the Turkish government is becoming a part of the lawlessness carried out by Israel.”
Human rights lawyer Rodney Dixon said the criminal case against the accused must go on “at all costs”.
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“We are strongly supporting the case here in Turkey and our very firm plea to the court has been that they must continue with the case,” he said.
“The so-called agreement between Israel and Turkey is not a treaty that is enforceable. It is unlawful under international law, under the convention on human rights and Turkish law.”
After the deal with Israel was agreed, an Istanbul court on October 19 held another hearing in the trial in absentia of four former Israeli military commanders, though it was later adjourned to December 2.
Turkish prosecutors are seeking life sentences for former military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy, who went on trial in absentia in 2012.
“Even if families of the victims accept the money, that would not affect the case,” said Gulden Sonmez, one of the lawyers in the trial and also a passenger on the ship.
“That is a criminal suit, not a suit for compensation. The $20m is an ex gratia payment. It’s a donation and cannot be accepted as compensation.”