Families of Mavi Marmara victims to press on with lawsuits

JERUSALEM (JTA) –- Families of the Turkish nationals injured in Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara said they will sue Israeli soldiers and their commanders despite an agreement between Turkey and Israel.

Under the agreement, the families would receive up to 20 times the amount of compensation they are seeking in their civil lawsuits, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınc told the Turkish Daily Zaman, the news service reported Sunday.

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Two rounds of compensation talks have been held. A third round will be held to finalize the agreement, according to Zaman.

Turkey and Israel agreed to normalize ties after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March apologized for Israel’s May 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship as it attempted to evade a maritime blockade of Gaza. Israel agreed to compensate the families of nine Turks killed in the ensuing violence when Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship.

Turkey withdrew its high-level diplomats from Israel and froze deals with Israel’s military in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident.

As part of Israel’s agreement on compensation, it wants lawsuits against Israeli soldiers dropped, according to reports.

An Istanbul court is holding a trial in absentia against four Israeli military commanders responsible for the raid on the ship. The charges against former Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and others reportedly include manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. They could be sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

If the trials are dropped in Turkey, the families and their lawyers said that they would look to an international court such as the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, according to Zaman, claiming the Turkish judiciary did not properly perform its duties.