ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish court was asked Wednesday to approve murder charges against members of Israel's military for the killing of nine people aboard a Turkish ship trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza in 2010, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.
The court in Istanbul received the proposed indictment, and will have 15 days to decide whether to accept it, the Anadolu Agency said.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Wednesday that Israel would only comment on the indictment after it had been filed and approved.
The Turkish prosecutor proposed charging Israel's former military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, along with the heads of its navy, air force and military intelligence. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for "inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing," the agency said.
Prosecutors also suggested similar charges be pressed against several unidentified soldiers who raided the ship in a separate file, the agency added.
It is unlikely Israeli military members will be brought before Turkey's judicial system, since Israel does not regard them as criminals, although Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekici argued Wednesday that the raid should be considered a crime against Turkish property in international waters
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state television that the legal process should be seen as an example of "the government's determination to defend the rights of Turkish citizens."
The move comes just a week ahead of the second anniversary of the May 31 raid. The ship had been part of a flotilla sailing toward Gaza to protest Israel's blockade.
Turkey has tried without success to get Israel to apologize for the attack, and to compensate those killed as a precondition for normalizing relations. Israel has solely expressed regret for the loss of lives.
Israel says its troops opened fire after coming under attack by activists wielding axes, knives and metal rods. It says soldiers rappelled on to the deck armed with non-lethal paintball guns as their primary weapons, and only resorted to using handguns after they were assaulted.
Wednesday's indictment, however, claimed that members of the military deliberately opened fire with the intention to kill — actions, it said, that cannot be considered acts of self-defense since the passengers were only armed with sticks, spoons and forks.
It said some of the victims were shot dead from close range and from the back, the agency reported.
The prosecutor also proposed the court press several other charges against members of the Israeli military, including commandeering vehicles, voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, persecution and causing damage to the ship, the agency said.
A United Nations probe into the incident found Israel's naval blockade of Gaza legally imposed "as a legitimate security measure" but added that the killing of eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American was "unacceptable."
Turkey has rejected the report's findings, saying Israel had no right to raid the ship in international waters and said it would never recognize the blockade's legitimacy.
Turkey has also slapped a series of sanctions on Israel — once a top military trading partner — that included expelling senior Israeli diplomats and suspending all military deals. It has also vowed to back the Palestinian bid for recognition of their statehood at the United Nations.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the coastal territory from their Fatah rivals in 2007. Israel allows humanitarian aid and goods into Gaza via land crossings after inspection for weapons.