The İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court on Monday unanimously accepted the indictment submitted last week by İstanbul Specially Authorized Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci. The indictment seeks nine aggravated life sentences each for former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's former military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levy on charges of instigating premeditated murder.
Ekinci submitted the document to the court on Tuesday and with the court's decision to accept it, charges have been officially filed against the Israeli commanders by Turkey. In the indictment, which is likely to further strain already deteriorating ties between the two regional powers, the prosecutor are seeking up to 18,032 years each for the commanders on various other charges, including attempted premeditated murder and causing injury.
Ekinci's indictment only names the commanders who gave orders, with the soldiers who carried out the raid to be named in a separate indictment. The investigation into the soldiers' actions is reportedly still under way.
While preparing the indictment, the prosecutor heard the testimonies of nearly 600 witnesses, including those who were aboard the Turkish ship and the relatives of victims, as part of the investigation. The unprecedented sentences the prosecutor is asking for are reportedly intended to be a reflection of the numerous victims affected by the Israeli military's actions.
Official Israeli sources have not commented on the indictment but media quoted Ashkenazi as saying he was certain "common sense would prevail in the end."
The reports said Ashkenazi added: "(Turkey) is an important country which together with Israel has a joint interest in maintaining stability in the Middle East ... From the first moment, I chose to stand up in every forum to defend the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces ... if the price for this is that I won't be able to visit Turkey, I will pay the price."
The eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American were killed when the Israeli Navy attacked an international aid flotilla trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Following the attack, Israel's government set up the Turkel Commission, a commission of inquiry headed by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, to investigate the attack. Turkish leaders dismissed the Israeli investigation, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined others in demanding an independent investigation, stating that the Israeli investigation would not have international credibility.