Turkish media has reported that US citizen Furkan Dogan’s family is suing former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a the US Federal Court for the Central District of California on the grounds that he is responsible for civilian casualties, including the death of Dogan, by ordering a maritime raid of the Mavi Marmara ship.
Nine Turkish citizens including Dogan, who was a dual citizen of the US, were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara in a bungled raid, and a tenth activist later died from heavy wounds.
The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla took place in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mavi Marmara was a Comoros-flagged passenger ship, owned by a Turkish NGO - the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) - and was one of six civilian ships in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla targeted by an Israeli military operation on May 31, 2010.
Ehud Barak was Israel's defence minister at the time of the attack and will be the first Israeli top official to stand on trial in a US courtroom, where he could be accused of international terrorism, according to Turkish media accounts.
Barak cancelled a trip to France on June 13 2010, following threats of charges being levelled against him and other Israeli officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction by Pro-Palestinian activists including the wives of Cevdet Kiliclar and Necdet Yildirim, who were killed by Israeli commandos during the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara.
The case of Dogan’s family vs. Barak will feature well-known attorneys under the coordination of Stoke & White Law Offices led by Professor Geoffrey Nice QC (Queen’s Counsel) - who was a deputy prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) during the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.
In addition, Rodney Dixon QC, who defended former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi following the military coup in the country, and famed US lawyers Haydee Dijkstal and Dan Stormer will also be part of the legal team for Dogan’s family.
In a recent development, an application by IHH's lawyers to the International Criminal Court (ICC) appealing against a previous decision by the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda not to pursue the case was accepted by the ICC on May 7.
The Pre-Chamber of the ICC will hear testimony from relatives and attorneys of those who were injured and killed, and this could also significantly pave way for the prosecution of Israeli actions during the raid.
In May 2012, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Turkey filed charges against leading members of the Israeli Army including Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gabiel Ashkenazi, Navy commander Eli Marom, Air Force Intelligence Chief Avishai Levy, and Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin, who were implicated in planning and implementing the attack.
The chief prosecutor has charged each of them with first-degree murder, assault and torture. The indictment called for ten life sentences to be imposed on each suspect.
The four “fugitive suspects” were indicted by Istanbul's 7th Heavy Penal Court, after its panel of judges voted unanimously to do so on May 28 2012. They were accused of inciting murder and injury in the 144-page indictment.
The court issued an arrest warrant in absentia and a red notice for the suspects in May 2014.
There have also been two international probes into the incident. The first inquiry was the UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission (UNHRC) report, which found that Israeli actions were "disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality" and displayed "willful killing."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also undertook another investigation which produced the Palmer Report which concluded the Israeli actions on the Mavi Marmara were "excessive and unreasonable.”
The Gaza flotilla was set up by an international coalition called the Free Gaza Movement, which included the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and the IHH. Its aim was to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which was strengthened in 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza.