Turkey slams US sentencing of Turkish banker on Iran scheme

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2018 By The Associated Press


In this courtroom sketch Mehmet Hakan Atilla, second from left, listens to the judge during his sentencing, flanked by his attorneys Cathy Fleming, left, and Victor Rocco Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in New York. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman imposed a sentence of 32 months in prison on the Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's foreign ministry has criticized the sentencing of a Turkish banker in the United States over his role in helping Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions.

In a statement late Wednesday, the foreign ministry called the trial against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an employee of Turkish state-run Halkbank, "an entirely feigned process which is inconsistent with the principle of fair trial."

Atilla was sentenced Wednesday to a shorter than expected prison term of 32 months, including the 14 months he has already served. The foreign ministry insisted on Atilla's innocence.

The trial, which ended in January, had featured testimony about corruption at top levels of the Turkish government. The ministry said the U.S. court relied on "forged evidence and false statements" from members of the network of a U.S.-based cleric accused of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government through the failed 2016 military coup.

The key witness in the case was Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, who testified he paid over $50 million in bribes to a former Turkish finance minister to help the sanction-busting scheme.

But the testimony that drew Turkey's fury was from a former Turkish police officer involved in a 2013 corruption investigation into the Zarrab scheme that broadened to include top Turkish politicians.

The government has accused Huseyin Korkmaz of links to cleric Fethullah Gulen and had dubbed the 2013 investigation a "judicial coup" against the government.

The foreign ministry said the evidence presented "eradicated the legitimacy of the trial."

It also said the court made an "unprecedented decision" in the implemention of U.S. sanctions laws by convicting and sentencing Atilla — "a foreign government official."

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