Turkey’s high court upheld indictments on four Israeli Defense Force soldiers, a result of 2010’s flotilla scandal. Nine Turks died in an attempt to breakdown a blockade on waters surrounding Gaza, an event that sorely affected Israeli-Turkish relations.
Now, Turkey’s legal system has called for life sentences to be placed on four IDF personnel, including former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
The high court’s unanimous decision marks the start of a trial that will take place in absentia, without the accused present. The four IDF soldiers, Ashkenazi, Eliezer Marom, Amos Yadlin and Avishai Levy, each face nine consecutive life terms in Turkey if convicted.
For the sentences to be acted out, Israel would have to extradite the four accused, a highly unlikely occurrence. Instead, those close to the issue said this recent indictment would serve to further deteriorate the relationship between the two countries.
An anonymous senior Israeli source told Israel Hayom: "This is another personal and intentional move by Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] to erode Israeli-Turkish relations…he is trying to completely crush the central axis on which Israel-Turkey relations have rested for many years."
"[Turkey] is an important country which together with Israel has a joint interest in maintaining stability in the Middle East ... I am certain common sense will prevail in the end," Ashkenazi added. "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."
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stated: "We should take these things very seriously. This has gotten completely out of proportion. Based on the facts and on international maritime law [these allegations] are entirely unfounded. We at the Foreign Ministry are obviously working, and have worked, to ensure that all of our people are protected in the best possible way. I imagine there will also be international political pressure on Turkey to drop the indictment."
Ayalon told an Israeli radio channel that the government would look into whether or not a conviction could pose extradition dangers if the four accused entered nations that had agreements with Turkey.
"They probably cannot visit Turkey, but I believe they can visit other countries. This seems more of a political step than a legal step," he said, adding, "If these reports are true, we are talking about an unexplainable and bad turn of events. I hope that they will regain their composure, because this behavior serves no one's interests."