The trial of four Israeli military commanders begins in their absence in Istanbul on Tuesday. They are charged over the killing of nine Turks on an aid ship bound for Gaza in May 2010.
The head of the army is among the accused. The prosecution is seeking multiple life sentences.
The charges run to 144 pages and include “inciting murder through cruelty or torture” and “inciting injury with firearms”.
The Turkish Islamic agency which owns the vessel, the Mavi Marmara, says it is seeking justice.
“We expect them to be punished. We want to break the shield around Israel which makes her untouchable as a state. We want them to take responsibility for their actions. We want justice,” said Gulden Somnez, a lawyer for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). “Due to the prisoners’ exchange accord, the accused can be arrested in any country upon Turkey’s request.”
The trial is expected to hear evidence from many of the 490 people including activists and journalists who were on board the ship.
It is bound to test further the already sour relations between the two former allies. Israel has described the process as a “show trial” and “political theatre”.
“There’s been no official communication with the accused officials. No document or statement asked for them. There is no demand or opportunity for the accused to defend themselves,” said Moshe Kamhi, the Israeli Consul General in Istanbul.
As well as those killed, more than 50 were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the aid ship.
Last year a UN report judged the use of force “excessive”, although it found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal.
In the commanders’ absence, the trial is likely to be largely symbolic.
Bora Bayraktar, euronews correspondent in Istanbul said:
“The activists of the Mavi Marmara are determined to continue to put pressure. It seems that the Istanbul courthouse will be the scene of more Mavi Marmara demonstrations.”