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Ex-Israeli prime minister faces US lawsuit over deadly Mavi Marmara raid

Ehud Barak has been sued in a US court over the death of a 19-year-old Turkish-American killed by Israeli commandos. The 2010 incident helped sour Israeli-Turkish Relations.

The Israeli politician was hand-delivered papers for the lawsuit while visiting the Los Angeles area to make a speech, an attorney for the family of 19-year-old Furkan Dogan said Tuesday.

Dogan was shot five times and was among nine killed when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a flotilla carrying about 700 activists who were attempting to defy Israel's blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid.

Barak was defense minister at the time of the raid.

"The papers were given to one of his bodyguards who later handed it to Barak in front of witnesses," Dan Stormer, one of the plaintiff attorneys, told the Reuters news agency. He added that he believed monetary damages awarded could run into the "tens of millions of dollars".

Nine killed aboard Mavi Marmara

Mavi Marmara Gaza Flotte

The deadly May 31, 2010 incident that killed nine Turkish activists caused a major diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel.

A UN report into the deadly May 31, 2010 incident said the Israeli raid in international waters was both "excessive and unreasonable," but it also blamed Turkey for organizing the flotilla that put hundreds of activists in harm's way.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement that the lawsuit "is yet another attempt to abuse otherwise legitimate legal tools for the cynical, political purpose of attacking the State of Israel."

The civil case is brought into US federal court in Los Angeles by some of the same human rights lawyers who have been

attempting to force the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) to mount a criminal investigation

into the incident.

"It's been an ongoing process ever since this happened to get accountability," said Rodney Dixon, a London-based attorney for the lawsuit. "It's a major breakthrough."

The deaths have

severely harmed once-close ties between Turkey and Israel

. Because the court action is a civil suit, Barak does not face criminal liability or the prospect of arrest.

Attorneys are attempting to bring the case under US federal law under the Alien Tort Claims, Torture Prevention and Anti-Terrorist acts.

But the case faces an uphill battle, Douglass Cassel, who teaches international human rights law and international criminal law at the University of Notre Dame.

"All down the line, the hurdles are daunting," Cassel told the Associated Press. He noted that a 2013 Supreme Court ruling has imposed limits on the ability of foreigners to use American courts to seek accountability and monetary damages for human rights abuses.

It's not the first time that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has played out in US courts. Earlier this summer, a settlement was reached between a Jordanian bank and victims of suicide bombers sanctioned by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, ending a

long-running lawsuit in New York

.

jar/bw (AP, Reuters)

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