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Delayed justice for the Freedom Flotilla

Last week at the 7th High Criminal Court in Istanbul I gave my testimony to what I witnessed as a passenger on the Mavi Marmara, part of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. Four and a half years after the attack by State of Israel soldiers on the hundreds of International civilians on board the ship we are still pursuing justice for the participants, particularly the nine widows, many orphans of the ten martyrs and those who were heavily wounded, some of whom are still affected by their injuries.

This was the 7th hearing and at the 6th hearing last June, Judge Ümit Kaptan ordered that arrest warrants [1] be issued for four Israeli Commanders of the Military and Intelligence Services, namely: Chief of General Staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi; Naval Forces Commander, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom; Israeli Military Intelligence Chief, Major General Amos Yadlin; and Air Forces Intelligence Head Brigadier, General Avishai Levi.

The Court requested the arrest warrants be sent to Interpol and for Interpol to issue “red notices” the highest alert possible “to seek the location and arrest of a person wanted by a judicial jurisdiction or an International tribunal with a view to his/her extradition. Imagine how dismayed I was to learn that within seven days of Judge Ümit Kaptan issuing order for the arrest warrants that he was suddenly demoted from being President of the 7th High Criminal Court (1st degree) to a judge of the 2nd degree Criminal Court by order of the Ministry of Justice. There is no concrete evidence as to the reason for this demotion but most people I spoke with were strongly of the opinion that some elements of the Turkish leadership may not seek further turbulence at a time when the region is in turmoil. Even more distressing is the fact that the arrest warrants are still sitting with the Justice Ministry and have not been sent to Interpol.

Due to Turkey’s increasingly strong leadership role in the Muslim world, the unity Turkey had both with its neighbours before the Syrian conflict, where travel for Turks, Iranians and Syrians between their respective countries did not require a visa, but also because during the time of the democratically elected President Morsi in Egypt where Turkey and Egypt, two large and powerful Muslim countries, were probably seen as potentially threatening by the State of Israel. Of course Israelis live in a permanent state of paranoia, fear and dread, no doubt in part brought about by knowing that they live in contravention of many of the Commandments given to Moses (ʿalayhi al-Salām): “thou shalt not kill”, thou shalt not steal, love thy neighbour and thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s assets, or even gas.[3] [4] Turkey has also been suffering huge manipulations from outside forces to cause internal division and strife, no doubt that Erdogan being so outspoken on the State of Israel’s many violations of International law and human rights abuses has gained him many enemies in the State of Israel and its supporters.

We have to hope that one day we can achieve unity among the leaders of Muslim countries which would lead to a coherent policy against the cancerous sore in the Middle East that is the State of Israel. No doubt unity is something that there are many dark forces working hard to prevent. Also very clear is that some Middle Eastern leaders are working hard on their own priorities which is to keep their positions on their thrones and to suppress any dissenting voices amongst their own people. Why do they not use their hugely expensive military hardware and armies to defend Arab land and resources from being stolen and defend against the daily violations of Al Aqsa mosque? The Arab Spring will not wither away and the billions of dollars spent by the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to reverse the legitimate calls for freedom, justice and progress by ordinary citizens is not going to go away either it is just going to take a lot more cool heads, wisdom and planning for it to bloom.

So the Mavi Marmara/Freedom Flotilla passenger’s case now has a new Judge. Myself and another British Citizen were the first of the day’s witnesses to stand before him in the court. Ahsan Shamruk is a dual British/Israeli citizen but more than that he is a Palestinian.[5] Ahsan and myself have travelled on many land convoys to Gaza, we have seen for ourselves the terrible destruction after the massacre in 2008/9 named “Cast Lead”, and in our visits since then we have witnessed the impact of the collective punishment of the Gazans and how they suffer under the siege. The Israelis do not allow building materials into the Gaza strip to enable people to rebuild the family homes that are mercilessly bombed by the State of Israel from the air and sea every couple of years. Israel has stripped the Gazans of any chance to have a normal life yet the people we have met there have enormous dignity and Īmān.

When the Judge asked me “why was I on the Mavi Marmara”? I would have liked to have been able to take the time to tell him that I personally was on the ship because the legal systems we have in place have completely failed to deliver justice to the people of Palestine. I would like to have asked him how come we have International human rights laws, we have the United Nations, we have the International Criminal Court at the Hague for war crimes, yet still we see so much injustice? Our own application to the I.C.C. resulted in Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda concluding that there may be reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on the Mavi Marmara whilst at the same time declining to take on the case because of it “lacking sufficient gravity”.[6] We are of course appealing that decision.

How is it possible to achieve justice these days? What can we read in the media every day except the evidence of huge injustices? In these times of social media it is so much harder to keep evidence of crimes hidden and now the cases which were labeled “conspiracies” a decade or so ago are accepted as reality. Yet prosecutions seem to be as elusive as ever. The reason for this lack of justice is of course because political considerations override the judicial system. The system is clearly, totally corrupt.

In court, one is aware that our testimony is supposed to be about what we witnessed and not our personal view of events so I kept my time before the judge very brief, in any case everything had to be relayed through a translator making it very slow. The judge asked me if I was personally injured or psychologically damaged by the events that took place. In the case of Ahsan Shamruk his personal injuries are evident. He was shot in the head and stomach, handcuffed, kicked and beaten. And yet, is it possible to describe and quantify the psychological damage we all suffered? In my case, although at the time I felt I was not seriously affected, I can now see that I buried a lot of my feelings very deeply and did not even wish to discuss what happened with people, least of all reporters. Even now I have found it easier on myself not to identify one of the martyrs who we tried to resuscitate and give heart massage to. As we worked to revive him the doctor shone a torch in his eyes but there was no response at all, the doctor shook his head indicating to us that he was gone. Of course, I can remember the colour of his eyes, which were open, how he looked and his injuries but I have not allowed myself to identify who that was. Many times I have met the families of the martyrs and I have remained silent not wishing to discuss events or what I saw with that person’s widow or orphans. Perhaps it is a feeling of failure or helplessness – I do not know. Certainly, the Turkish charity I.H.H. could not ever have imagined that we would experience such a vicious attack and we were not prepared at all to treat or deal with such severity or numbers of casualties. Although we can train in first aid we are only trained to do certain procedures until the paramedics and an ambulance arrive – imagine the scene when you are in the middle of the sea with dozens of injured in your arms, and no help is coming.

The Israelis treated all of us very arrogantly, even once we had surrendered the ship, even after they had handcuffed the passengers and gained complete control. The humiliation and torment continued after we landed in Israel and were taken to prison. The Israelis had a very inhumane attitude to dealing with their captives. I am very proud to say such was not the behaviour of our people when we had State of Israel soldiers in our captivity; they were given medical attention by our doctors and not tortured or humiliated. Individual cases aside, the mere insanity of attacking ships in International waters, shooting people and assassinating them when already wounded, some with shots to the back of the head, taking us to Israel at gunpoint and then telling us we have to sign a form saying we entered the State of Israel illegally and imprisoning those who did not, is enough to enlighten everyone as to the arrogance and lunacy of the State of Israel. A note to point out however is that the State is Israel but the land is Palestine and always will be, long after the lunatic State has gone.

The Judge asked me if I wanted to stand as a witness when the Israeli fugitives are brought to the court to face justice and I answered “yes – definitely”. Remember, the proper trial will be when the Israelis are in the dock. It was then time for any further questions from the lawyers.

I was asked by one of the lawyers if I felt that I had been treated differently than other passengers. I replied that I felt I had been treated somewhat differently having been allowed to stand up and walk around to give the wounded passengers water and to try to find blankets. The soldiers did speak to me in English; I am undeniably white-skinned and the racism present in the State of Israel is well known. I did also overhear an Israeli soldier asking another soldier if someone was Turkish or Arab, so identity was of interest to them; the harshest treatment seemed to be reserved for the Turks. I am pretty sure that the British government is powerless to take any action against Israel for their many injustices due to the large amount of funding that all of our political parties here in the U.K. receive from wealthy pro-Israel supporters, which surely comes with strings attached. Also, because of strong lobby groups like Friends of Israel and the Henry Jackson Society who only exist to promote Israeli causes and conversely to promote fear and loathing of Muslims and Islām.

Certainly the representative from the British consulate who visited us in prison gave us a shoulder shrug and said that the Israelis do what they want – not what we wanted to hear in that situation at all. Neither was the meeting we later had at the Foreign office with Alistair Burt and other officials fruitful in having Britain push for justice on our behalf. Neither has the letter I wrote to my local M.P. requesting she contact the Israeli ambassador regarding the camera, phone, cash and other items that were stolen from me bear dividends. Although there was a reply stating that these items were being held until after their own investigation was conducted, we have still not received such items back – it has been years since the investigation was concluded. Stolen items include much data from the C.C.T.V. cameras on board the ship and the footage of many video cameras and photographs that were taken both during the sailing and the attack. Israel refuses to return such evidence despite having been asked many times. Some cameras and laptops were returned a few days after we left Israel but they were completely destroyed.

After hearing some more witnesses the day drew to a close and we eagerly awaited the Judge’s conclusion. With the new Judge we could not be sure how he might react. The Judge had asked the lawyers what they were instructing him to do to further the case and then he called for a break so that he could consider. As we retook our places in the court the Judge announced that the lawyers should send another instruction to the Justice Ministry to expedite the sending of the arrest warrants to Interpol.[7] The Judge ordered that two days in March 2015 be set aside for further witness testimonies to be heard where he hoped some conclusion might be reached.

So the wheels of justice slowly grind on, perhaps some may hope that we may be disheartened and give up, but that will never happen, we are always exploring new avenues to end Israeli impunity. Lawyers from around the world are watching this case and many fly over to Istanbul to observe proceedings with great interest and share ideas with each other. One day Israel will be brought to justice. President Erdogan set out conditions for normalising relations with Israel when he was Prime Minister they were, 1) apology 2) compensation 3) an end to the siege. So far, two of these conditions have been met but the siege remains.

Every time I meet with my Turkish brothers and sisters, especially from the charity I.H.H., it renews my faith in their humanity. The widows and orphans are only interested in achieving justice, not just for themselves but also for the Palestinian people. Israel has already offered millions of dollars in compensation but the families want to see the original aim of the flotilla achieved: to break and bring an end to the inhumane siege of Gaza. None of us are anywhere near ready to give up the struggle for justice. Justice will prevail in this life and, if not, as indicated in the Qur’ān, there will be no escape from justice in the next.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ وَيَقْتُلُونَ الَّذِينَ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْقِسْطِ مِنَ النَّاسِ فَبَشِّرْهُمْ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ

Warn those who deny Allah’s revelations, slay the Prophets without any justification, and kill those from among the people who enjoin justice about the news of a painful punishment.[8]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1]   http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/turkish-court-issues-historic-arrest-warrants-israeli-army-commanders

[2]   http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/committed-sufficient-investigation

[3] http://witnessesofthefreedomflotilla.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/ahsan-shamruk.pdf

[4]   http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Dec-08/280273-israel-stealing-lebanons-gas-parliament-speaker.ashx

[5]   http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jul/09/israel-war-gaza-palestine-natural-gas-energy-crisis

[6]   http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/committed-sufficient-investigation

[7]   http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/news/0/mavi-marmara-trial-court-insists-on-interpol-/2641

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 3:21

About Laura Stuart

Housewife, Human rights activist & revert to Islam

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