Victims shot 30 times, five in head at close range


ISRAEL WAS last night under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after post mortem results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian newspaper, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.

Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the post mortems for the Turkish ministry of justice yesterday.

The results revealed that Ibrahim Bilgen (60) was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan (19), who also had US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.

Meanwhile, the Irish-owned aid ship MV Rachel Corriewas 80 miles off the Gaza coast last night and was expecting to reach the 20-mile exclusion zone by 10am Irish time if it was not halted and hauled to the port of Ashdod by the Israeli navy.

Former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday said yesterday the 1,200-tonne ship would refuse to dock voluntarily at any port other than Gaza’s small harbour.

In response to an Israeli offer to allow international inspectors to search the ship in Ashdod or at an Egyptian port, Mr Halliday said: “We welcome a UN inspection to examine our cargo, which is solely construction and educational materials and medical supplies, but we believe this can be done at sea or in Gaza.” The cargo holds were inspected and sealed before the ship left Dundalk.

Mr Halliday continued: “If the Israeli authorities wish to negotiate, they will have to contact the ship directly. We are very much in command on this. We feel we have the authority to continue, and we are more determined than ever to deliver this cargo.”

Also on board are Nobel peace laureate Mairéad Maguire, Derek and Jenny Graham from Ballina, Co Mayo, and Dundalk film-maker, Fiona Thompson. Because the Malaysian Perdana Leadership Foundation – headed by former premier Mahathir Mohamed – purchased the vessel, Malaysian MP Muhammad Nizar bin Zakaria and barrister and author Matthias Chang Wen Chieh are also taking part in the voyage. On Thursday, the Free Gaza Movement, which launched the ill-fated flotilla, asked the Rachel Corrie to head for Cyprus or Crete to pick up other activists and journalists. They also requested that fresh insurance coverage be arranged to replace a €25,000 policy, which was withdrawn, reportedly due to Israeli pressure on the issuing firm.

As it is illegal to ply in international waters without insurance, Greta Berlin, co-founder of the FGM, dubbed this move “another kind of sabotage”.

It is believed the hydraulic steering equipment of two Irish-owned yachts was tampered with before they were due to set off with the flotilla for Gaza.

But the activists have refused to disrupt the journey, already dogged by false starts and delays. Mr Halliday said: “If we berth in any other port, or turn back for Cyprus or Crete, we know we won’t be able to leave. And we will have no way of ensuring that our cargo reaches the people of Gaza.”