The second hearing of the Mavi Marmara trial as part of which four Israeli suspects stand trial for their role in the attack on Mavi Marmara ship in 2010, was held on Wednesday.
The suspects did not attend the hearing at the İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court at İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.
Lawyers of some of the victims and co-plaintiffs were in attendance at the hearing while the suspects were represented by a lawyer appointed by the İstanbul Bar Association.
Mavi Marmara passenger Fatima Muratibi was the first who was heard at the trial. Giving some information about how she decided to join the Freedom Flotilla, she said: “I went to Gaza in 2009 and witnessed the humanitarian tragedy there. I became aware of the flotilla in 2010. I decided to take part in it.”
Wright: This trial is very important
Marry Ann Wright, an American victim of the Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara, said the Mavi Marmara trial is of historic importance because this is the first time Israel stands trial as a murderer. She said she travelled on Mavi Marmara for two days and she was on board the Challenger 1, another ship in the flotilla, at the time of the attack. Wright said the armed attack by Israeli soldiers on Mavi Marmara was a horrendous attempt. Noting that she served in the American army for years, Wright said she told the court what can be done with the weapons in the hands of the Israeli soldiers who attacked the flotilla. “This is a trial in which Israel is being tried as a murderer for the first time. So, it is of crucial importance,” she added.
Meadors: Turkey acted honestly
Joe Meadors, passenger of the Greek registered ship in the flotilla, said he told the court how the Israeli soldiers raided the ship with automatic weapons.
“They got on the deck and ordered us to have a seat. They took our everything except for the passports and they did not give them back to us,” he said.
He said he was on the American USS Liberty ship when it was attacked by Israel in 1967, killing 34 people. He said the United States just settled for launching an investigation into the attack. Meadors said the Mavi Marmara trial is exciting as he added: “This is the first time that Israel is being called to give account for its actions. The United States has refused to do this for decades. But the Turkish state has acted honestly by accepting to file this case against Israel.”
They were saying, “one minute”
One of the victims of the Mavi Marmara attack, Fahrettin Seyyar said: “The Israeli soldiers were constantly telling us: ‘Let [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan come and save you, one minute.’ I think they were offended by Erdoğan’s saying one minute to Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos in 2009.” Seyyar said he was on board the Mavi Marmara ship at the time of the attack, adding that the passengers of the ship were constantly subjected to psychological pressure on board the ship and in the port and airport they were later taken to.
He said he had a large sum of money on him and Israeli soldiers asked him to give the money to them and searched their personal belongings for many times.
“They searched my body at least for 10 times before going to the airport. I held the money in my hand. They attacked most of the friends and verbally harassed them. In addition, the [Israeli] soldiers kept telling us: ‘Let [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan come and save you, one minute,’” he said, adding that he filed complaint against the suspects and he wants to join the trial.
“Israeli allegations are complete lie”
Former Israeli citizen Feiler who testified to the court as a victim said he lived as an Israeli citizen until the age of 22 but he adopted Swedish citizenship later. He said he served for the Israeli army and he was on board the Sofya ship at the time of the attack which was travelling to Gaza.
“The bullets they used were real bullets. I can differentiate between real and fake bullets. We were able to see what was going on onboard the Mavi Marmara. But we did not guess there would be such consequences. When we arrived at the Ashdod Port, they separated me from the others because I am an Israeli citizen. But, I refused to answer their questions.”
When asked by one of the victims’ lawyers whether the Israeli soldiers opened fire without stepping on the ship or after they raided the ship, as it is widely known by the public, Feiler said: “As far as I see Israeli soldiers opened fire on those onboard the Mavi Marmara from a helicopter. Israeli allegations suggesting that there were weapons on the ship are completely lie.”
Feiler said he went to the Mavi Marmara ship to give a conference during the preparations for the flotilla.
“When we went there, we were searched by the ship’s security staff. It was impossible to take something illegal to the ship,” he noted.
“I bow with respect in front of those who lost their lives in the attack. They set out to achieve a humanitarian goal,” Feiler said, adding that he filed a complaint against the suspects and he wants to join the trial.
Paeven Yakup, another victim who was also heard at the trial, said he was on board the Mavi Marmara at the time of the attack. “I held the hand of brother Uğur Süleyman Söylemez who was injured in the attack. He was tightly holding my hand. When Israeli soldiers came to take him, I asked them to take me, too because brother Süleyman was heavily injured,” he said.
Yakup also noted that Israeli soldiers did not let the passengers go to toilet on the grounds that there were dead bodies in the toilets.
“However, I did not see any dead bodies when I earlier went to the toilet,” he said.
“Israeli soldiers had five types of weapons”
Mustafa Tuna, another victim, said he was also onboard the Mavi Marmara at the time of the attack, he is a retired soldier and he wants to give some information about the incident.
“The soldiers had five different types of weapons. Only one of those weapons had plastic bullets while the other ones had real bullets,” he said.
Tuna said he tried to care for the dead bodies on the ship.
“Since they were going to take us hostage, I thought since they have no respect for us, they would not have any respect for our martyrs, either. So, I tried to find body bags. As far as I learned later, they washed the bodies of our martyrs with alcohol. They carried the injured passengers very inappropriately as if they were carrying a dead animal. I saw them carrying an injured passenger with his head down to the ground.”
‘Nine brothers brutally massacred’
Ramazan Kaya, another victim, said he was pleased to see that the belief Israel is untouchable has been shaken with the Mavi Marmara trial. He said he was on board the Mavi Marmara ship at the time of the attack, adding: “Nine of our brothers were brutally massacred. We were subjected to psychological pressure, threats and insults by Israel.”
“There was heavy fire”
Fraj Al Afgany, another victim who witnessed the incident onboard the Mavi Marmara, said they met with other ships in the sea.
“From the loudspeakers, the captain was saying he detected some Israeli ships around. We were in the first storey in the left, front side of the ship. I saw three warships, 14 inflatable boats and zodiacs. A helicopter came later. It turned its lights on the ship. I went 100 meters away later. I heard the sounds of blast bombs and sound bombs. I know these things because I performed my military service in Jordan. There was heavy fire. They used a silencer,” he said.
Afgany said he saw someone looking up when he was in the front side of the ship and saw that person collapsing due to the fire opened by Israeli soldiers.
“Brother Halit was yelling in English. He was saying they are in need of help, there are injured and dead people on the ship. There were slain people among us. Announcements were being made in all the languages in Arabic, English and Hebrew. There was an iron umbrella above our head on the left side. They asked us to go into the ship. We stayed in the same position until the very last moment. One of the soldiers suddenly came, pushed me from my back and I hit my face to the ground. They tied my arms from behind with a rubber rope. Israeli soldiers stepped on me and passed by me. I stayed in that position for two hours. The ship was wet. They later took me away. I had to surgeries on my back. It was so difficult for me to stay in that position. I was in pain. I asked a British woman to ask the Israeli soldiers to untie my hands. But the soldiers refused to do so. I suffered a lot,” Afgany said.
“Going to toilet was even banned”
Afgany said a young boy named Mustafa asked permission from the Israeli soldiers to go to toilet but he was rejected.
“They did not give him a permission to go to toilet. He asked for a permission at least for 10 times. Somebody brought a bottle. One of the friends covered his body with a cloth so that he can pee in the bottle. When he asked the soldiers whether what they want was that, one of soldiers came and hit his chest. They took him to the back side. I have complaints about all of them,” he added.
“Tyranny on the ship”
Latifi Ahmad, one of the victims, also said he was on board the Mavi Marmara at the time of the attack.
“There were four helicopters, several warships and a lot of boats around the ship in the morning hours. They were unable to get on the ship at the beginning. They sent soldiers to the ship from the helicopter,” he said.
Ahmad also noted that real bullets were used in the attack, adding: “I heard the sounds of the bullets. There were deaths, there were also injured people. Israeli soldiers prevented us from treating the injured. They made us gather in a part of the ship later. They tied our hands and eyes. They took us to the deck of the ship after a while. A helicopter came next to ship and we were soaked by sea water. Then, we came to the port and were interrogated. The interrogator told me, ‘You have committed many crimes,’ because I went to Gaza earlier and they saw this as a crime. What Israel did was piracy. I am a complainant. I want to join the trial as well,” he said.
Former public prosecutor Petek: This is not a symbolic but a real trial
One of the co-plaintiff lawyers in the case, former public prosecutor Reşat Petek, underlined that it is not Israel but the people who committed a massacre on behalf of it are being tried at the trial. Petek said the Mavi Marmara trial is not a symbolic trial as it is claimed but a real one.
“We were horrified when we heard the accounts of the witnesses. There are efforts to show the massacre as being innocent. We have nine martyrs. Separate punishments are being demanded for each of them. If the suspects do not come to the court, an arrest warrant can be issued for them. Israel is anxious because of this. It is not right to underestimate the trial due to the absence of the suspects,” he said.
The trial will continue on Friday
Müşir Deliduman, lawyer of one of the suspects, who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing asked for the preparation of an additional indictment concerning the destruction of evidence in the case, issue of a red notice for the suspects, discovery of weapons used in the attack and their protection and sending a copy of the indictment to the president. Presiding judge of the court Ümit Kaptan adjourned the trial to Nov. 9 as part of which 33 victims and co-plaintiffs were heard on Wednesday. He said victims and co-plaintiffs will continue to deliver testimonies on Friday and the requests of the suspects and their lawyers will be received later on.
In the meantime, high security measures were taken around the İstanbul Courthouse due to the Mavi Marmara trial. Entry to the court room was only allowed from the main bloc while some of corridors in the building were closed. Elevators were not allowed to stop in the storey where the court hearing the Mavi Marmara trial is located.