Victims of Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla fear legal case will be …
A landmark case due to be heard by the high court in Istanbul over alleged crimes committed by Israel during the 2010 aid flotilla to Gaza could be dropped as a result of a bilateral agreement signed in June. The Turkish court is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday aimed at holding four Israeli generals to account for the alleged assault and unlawful detention of more than 700 activists. They were aboard a fleet of boats attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in May 2010.
The case against the generals is due to be heard in absentia.
 However, the activists fear the judge will dismiss the case following a deal reached between Israel and Turkey in the summer to restore diplomatic relations, which broke off following the violent interception of the flotilla.
 Under the deal, Israel agreed to make an ex gratia payment of £20m (?16m) to Turkey to compensate the families of 10 activists who were killed by Israeli forces aboard the flotilla’s lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.
The agreement specified that the two countries “do not attribute legal or other liability to the other side or its agents, and agree that this understanding will not be construed as an admittance of or the placing of criminal or civil liability on any side or its agents”.
The deal constituted “full release from any liability of Israel, its agents and citizens with respect to any and all claims, civil or criminal, that have been or will be filed against them in Turkey, direct or indirect, by the Republic of Turkey or Turkish real and legal persons, in relation to the flotilla incident”.
Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara and five other ships in May 2010 to prevent them reaching Gaza, killing 10 people and injuring many more.
The incident triggered international condemnation and a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.
 The flotilla had set sail from Turkey, and nine of the 10 dead activists were Turkish. Its cargo included medical supplies, construction materials and paper for Gaza schools.
Israel warned it would prevent the ships breaking its blockade on Gaza.
A United Nations investigation later backed Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza as legal but said its military assault on the flotilla was “excessive and unreasonable”.
 In the case due to be heard in Istanbul this week, 740 activists from 37 countries – including a number from the UK – are being represented.
The court has heard testimony over the past 18 months, and the judge is now due to decide how to proceed.
Alexandra Lort Phillips, a British activist who testified in earlier court hearings in Istanbul, said: “The attack on the ships of the flotilla was a shocking event … The actions of Israel were illegal, plain and simple.”
She said the legal process was now at risk of being “politically hijacked”, adding: “It is deeply upsetting. The legal process should not fall victim to power politics.”
Ahsan Shamruk, another British activist, said he was shot in the head and stomach and left to die in the lethal military assault on the flotilla. “I am still suffering from nightmares and many sleepless nights.
I have permanent ear nerve damage and my eyesight has drastically deteriorated. Those responsible must be held to account for this criminal act.”
The deal between Israel and Turkey was not enforceable as a matter of international law and under the European convention on human rights, said Rodney Dixon, a British QC who is part of the survivors’ legal team.
“It would be unlawful for the Turkish court to terminate the criminal case and deprive the victims of justice and their ‘day in court’ on account of an ‘agreement’ made by two states,” he said.
“The victims and the families of the deceased were not consulted nor involved at all in these dealings that directly impinge on their fundamental rights.”
- ^ Israel (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Gaza (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ deal reached between Israel and Turkey (www.haaretz.com)
- ^ Turkey (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ stormed the Mavi Marmara (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ United Nations investigation (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Israeli government minister visited Turkey (www.hurriyetdailynews.com)