6 NOVEMBER 2012 – FIRST DAY OF MAVİ MARMARA TRIAL
The Mavi Marmara trial kicked off at Çağlayan Courthouse, Istanbul on the Nov. 6 morning. Thousands gathered in front of the courthouse and protested Israel.
Four individuals, including former Israeli Chief of General Staff Gen. Ashkenazi, are being tried in absentia over the attack on the “Mavi Marmara” vessel that was carrying humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Testimonies were heard from mostly foreign activists during the hearings on the first day of the trial with sessions scheduled for Nov. 7 and 9.
The trial into the attack in international waters in the Mediterranean on the “Mavi Marmara” boat carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza had its first session on Nov. 6 with Rau Aluf Gavriel Ashkenazi, Israeli Chief of General Staff when the assault took place, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi on trial.
The session of Istanbul 7th High Criminal Court at Istanbul Courthouse was videotaped.
FURKAN DOĞAN’S FATHER GIVES TESTIMONY
Ahmet Doğan, father of slain Mavi Marmara activists Furkan Doğan, was present at the first hearing.
In his testimony, Doğan said: “Furkan was a high-school student. He was a US citizen. He had taken an exam to study in Turkey. He was a sensitive, fine youngster, always concerned with the hardships of others. We were shocked by his mother’s screaming as we were following the flotilla on television on 31 May. The assault had begun. And we did not hear anything from him again. He tried hard to be on that ship. He was eventually selected as one of the nine people from the city of Kayseri to board the ship. Furkan wanted to be a doctor because he wanted to help others. He was telling everyone on board about his ambition. He was moved by the atmosphere. He wanted to be with children in Gaza. He was following the developments and wanted to be with people there.”
Bülent Yıldırım: “A significant step was taken today”
Speaking to reporters in front of the Istanbul Courthouse, Bülent Yıldırım, chairman of IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, underlined the significance of the Mavi Marmara trial, the first hearing of which took place today, despite Israel’s refusal to be tried in any way.
Yıldırım said: “There was a conviction that no force in the world could stop Israel’s aggression. We set out to humanity in the Mavi Marmara vessel. There were passengers from 37 countries on board the boat. Today people from 37 countries are demanding that their rights be restored. Turkey is hosting justice and freedom as it has hosted compassion towards disaster and war zones. Brave judges and prosecutors of Turkey proved that such a lawsuit could be pursued in Turkey. The accused are facing sentences up to 18,000 years. Complete identity information of five of the suspects has been obtained. They are being tried. Israel is viewing this trial as a theatre play. I would like to call on Israeli authorities. If this is a play, why are you refusing to disclose the names of the troops that committed massacre on board the Mavi Marmara? If you are not afraid of the outcome of this trial, then, step forward and admit you killed Furkan Doğan, İbrahim Bilgen and others on the ‘Mavi Marmara’ boat. At least have the courage to stand by what you did. Israeli media has imposed self-censorship. I do not mean this trial. Two years ago I had said ‘We will subject Israel to embargo.’ Today Israel’s own media is imposing embargo. They have deprived the Israeli public of reliable information. Soon the senior army commanders in question will not be able to travel abroad.”
All the soldiers that attacked the boat will be identified one by one and brought to justice, Yıldırım stated. “They all will be punished. We have another action in progress. But we will not give any details at this point. If we can accomplish it, no Israeli politician will be able to leave the occupied Palestinian territories they call Israel.”
IHH leader stated that lawyers and activists from different parts of the world had come to watch the court case that is being supported with concrete evidence, adding “Everyone is going through a test in this trial. Israel underestimated the Turkish judicial system. We will see how Israel will be slapped in the face. No jurist can back down from such a case supported with such immense concrete evidence. No real jurist would do that.”
Lawsuits in different countries around the world will follow the one in Turkey and it will set a precedent. “This trial will give way to all lawsuits into the Palestinian question. You will witness all Israelis put on trial. For now Israel has deceived its citizens saying ‘no-one can touch us’ and is not discussing this trial so that its troops will not mutiny. I am calling on Israel: If you have any courage at all, you will tell your public all details of this trial. So your soldiers will learn what they might face.”
Yıldırım said the senior commanders and politicians would not have the courage to face their own children and their children will denounce what their parents did. “These people will go down in history as perpetrators of massacre. We stand here united; we will witness this great case of humanity reach a conclusion here.”
Israel will apologize and pay compensation, IHH leader noted.
“We turned down your indecent proposal and money. We launched actions for damages other than this. We will win these too. God willing we will confiscate aircrafts and ships of the occupier Israeli state after we win these lawsuits. You will pay compensation too. And lift the Gaza blockade. We have no doubts about it at all. Something else is going to happen. Arrest warrants will be issued on you for committing willful killings. You will be condemned to solitary life from now on. We will turn the wall you erected around Palestine into walls of prison for you through trial and law, and we will never quit.”
“We faced huge pressure until we reached this point. Israel and Israel-affiliated forces put pressure on us. I will not divulge any names but we all know who is working for whom. We will tell the truth without caring who might be offended. Our private lives were snooped and assets revealed. Threats and assassinations were carried out. We did not even share most of them with media so that the trial process would not be disrupted. Let Israel and its allies know that we fear nothing. Our blood is not more valuable than the blood of Palestinians as long as there are orphans, children in Gaza. We will pursue this trial to its end. It will be the common case of the entire humanity. I am always saying: this is not a lawsuit against the Jewish people. If there were Jews in Gaza and Muslims were persecuting them, we would go to help them too. This is a lawsuit against murderers and Zionists. They willfully killed and wounded people. They shot the wounded in the face from close range. All the murderers will be tried. And compassionate people anywhere in the world will stand by us. You are witnessing historic days. God willing, the right, justice and peace shall dominate the world from now on.”
Uğur Yıldırım: “Israel should hand over the criminals”
Uğur Yıldırım, an attorney representing IHH and the Mavi Marmara victims, discussed the ongoing Mavi Marmara trial:
“This is definitely not a symbolic trial or one that is only binding in Turkey. We all hope that it will be a fair trial in terms of our laws, the Turkish Penal Code. The expectations that the accused will not be extradited and no conclusion will be reached are also wrong, because during the trial warrants were written to have the suspects’ testimonies. If they fail to respond to warrants, arrest warrants might be issued on them. Both Turkey and Israel are parties to the European Convention on Extradition. Therefore, Israel has to hand over the suspects to Turkey. If it fails to do so, a red notice could be issued for their arrest through Interpol. This is a procedure that is required by international conventions which Turkey is signatory to. Since the plaintiffs in the Mavi Marmara trial are from 37 different countries, similar lawsuits have either been filed or are in process of investigation. Lawsuits have been opened into the case in France, Belgium, Spain, and South Africa. And if the accused commanders travel to any of these countries, they will be arrested within the scope of these investigations. Depending on the outcome of this trial, Israel will be turned into an open-air prison for the commanders in question just as Gaza has been turned into one for the Gaza inhabitants.”
“This trial is important from another aspect as well. Since the day it was founded Israel has committed numerous violations against Palestinians around the world, particularly in the Middle East. They led to people being displaced from their land and killed brutally. Israel was not held to account for what it did at any platform. It was condemned several times by the United Nations but never faced any criminal trial or sanctions by a court. In the period preceding the Mavi Marmara initiative, 1,500 Palestinians were massacred in the Operation Cast Lead. Nothing happened. Those responsible for the deaths were not held to account anywhere. Even when Israel sank its ally America’s Liberty navy ship in 1967, killing 34 American citizens and wounding 171, no inquiries were launched. The Mavi Marmara trial is the first of its kind to be recorded in history in terms of ‘trying Israel.’ Israel is being tried and held to account for the first time on Nov. 6”
The 144-page indictment prepared by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci recalls that the attack by Israeli forces killed nine activists and wounded more than 50. The indictment lists the 490 passengers on board the ship, including the activists and press members, as complainant-victims.
Mavi Marmara Return Footage - (Abridged version - 2012)
Notes from Çağlayan Courthouse:
-The large courtyard of Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan was turned into a festivity area by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
-Thousands from abroad and across Turkey gathered at the courthouse. They protested Israel by waving banners and chanting slogans.
-The trial is watched by scores of national and international television channels, news agencies, newspapers, and social media experts.
-At the end of the trial nearly 500 victims will have testified.
-A photo exhibition featuring the Mavi Marmara boat and the process surrounding the attack was put on display and signatures were collected at Çağlayan Square.
-In addition to citizens gathering at the square, many national and international observers were also present to watch the trial.
-Among the attendees at the courthouse were representatives of dozens of nongovernmental organizations and political parties.
-Since the courthouse could take in a limited number of people, the priority was given to the relatives of the activists killed on board the Mavi Marmara, foreign activists who took part in the flotilla, attorneys, and observers.
-There was attendance from dozens of countries, particularly from Palestine, Belgium, France, Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Algeria, and Jordan.
-Prominent British correspondent Yvonne Ridley was among the observers.
-Sheikh Raed Salah, leading Palestinian activists and one of the Mavi Marmara passengers, was also present at the first session of the trial.
-Joe Meadors, one of the marines who survived the Israeli assault on the US Navy Ship Liberty in 1967, came to Istanbul to attend the trial.
-The crowd that gathered outside the courthouse called the names of the activists killed on board the Mavi Marmara. The names were called one by one and the crowd shouted “present” in unison.
The indictment asks the court to sentence Rau Aluf Gavriel Ashkenazi, Israeli Chief of General Staff at the time of the attack, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi to nine counts of aggravated life imprisonment for “incitement to brutal killing or killing by inflicting excruciating suffering” and to 18,012 years prison terms each for “incitement to property damage,” “incitement to plunder,” “incitement to maltreatment,” “incitement to deprivation of right to communication,” “incitement to deprivation of personal freedom,” “incitement to injury to body,” and “incitement to injury with firearms.”
Scores of human rights observers, nongovernmental organizations from Turkey and different countries as well as domestic and foreign media companies watched the trial.
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