TEL AVIV, Israel, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- An Israeli civil rights law firm Tuesday came out strongly against Turkey's decision to try former Israeli military chiefs for the deaths of nine activists.
Shurat HaDin -- Israel Law Center said the Turkish government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not four former Israeli military chiefs, should be held responsible for the activists' deaths aboard the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara boat.
In May 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, after the ship's crew ignored calls to re-route to the Israeli port of Ashdod. A battle ensued on the ship during which nine activists were killed and a number of commandos injured.
Turkey's state prosecutor is seeking multiple life prison sentences for former Israel military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, naval forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, former head of Israeli military intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and air force intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman said Tuesday.
The newspaper said the prosecutor is demanding prison sentences of more than 18,000 years for each of the Israelis.
A crowd gathered outside the Istanbul courtroom, the Turkish daily said.
"The Turkish leader Erdogan was the one who allowed these extremists from al-Qaida, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to launch a naval expedition against Israel, a country that Turkey was not at war with," Shurat HaDin said in a statement. "The United Nations has investigated the Israeli coastal blockade of Gaza and has determined that it was in full compliance with international law. The flotilla, which was provided material support by the Turkish government, was a provocation designed to endanger the lives of Israeli sailors tasked with enforcing the lawful blockade. As such, officials in Istanbul and their role in this act of war against a non-belligerent nation needs to be investigated. Erdogan must be tried for his liability over the deaths of the terrorists and the serious injuries to Israeli servicemen."