Turkey has issued arrest warrants for four retired Israeli military leaders, according to Haaretz, after a prosecutor filed an indictment seeking sentences of life plus 18,000 years (!) for their roles in the 2010 attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
The four officers - former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, former commander of the navy Eliezer Marom, and former head of air force intelligence Avishai Levi - are now subject to arrest if they set foot in Turkey. The Turkish government could also ask Interpol to issue a so-called "red notice" for the four, in which case they could be arrested any time they visit any of Interpol's 190 member countries.
The indictment accuses the Israeli officers of giving orders for the May 30, 2010, raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, during which Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish citizens and Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old American of Turkish descent. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state television Wednesday that the legal process should be seen as an example of his "government's determination to defend the rights of Turkish citizens," according to the Associated Press.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the Turkish authorities will really see the case through. The AP, citing Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu, says an Istanbul court has 15 days to decide whether to accept the indictment. Haaretz says its Turkish sources report - surprise! - that "Washington is applying heavy pressure on Ankara to get the Istanbul prosecutor to reject the indictment."
Haaretz says some of its sources "speculated that Ankara might be planning to use the indictment as a means of pressuring the U.S. Congress to approve the sale of armed American Predator drones to Turkey." The Obama administration has approved the sale, but Congress has been holding it up, mainly due to anger at Turkey's hostile policy toward Israel, according to Haaretz,
The indictment, prepared by prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci, seeks 10 "consecutive life sentences" - one for each death plus one for a victim of the Israeli assault who remains in a coma - for each of the indictees on charges of voluntary manslaughter. Additional charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter, intentional injury, incitement to assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, abduction or confiscation of maritime vessels, property damage, false arrest and maltreatment of prisoners could subject each of the high-ranking officers to further sentences of 18,000 years in prison.
The 144-page indictment is reportedly based on testimony from 600 people, including 490 passengers on the Mavi Marmara, as well as relatives of those killed.