Turkey slams US verdict convicting banker in Iran sanctions case

Turkish banker Hakan Atilla was found guilty in a US court of violating Washington's sanctions against Iran.

    Turkish officials have denounced a verdict handed down by a US jury that found a Turkish banker guilty of evading sanctions on Iran that were imposed by Washington.

    Mehmet Hakan Atilla and eight others were accused of moving billions of dollars' worth of Iranian money through American banks, disguised as food and gold sales.

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    The case angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers, some of whom accused US court officials of having ties to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish, US-based religious leader blamed for the July 2016 coup attempt. 

    Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul called Wednesday's verdict "an attack on Turkey's judiciary and sovereignty", in remarks reported by state media.

    "Applying the US domestic law to a citizen of a foreign country constitutes a clear contradiction, both in the context of jurisdiction and whether the action carries criminal character," Gul told state-run Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

    "We regard this process as an attack on Turkey's judiciary and sovereignty, and we do not accept it."

    'Scandalous case'

    Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the ruling was "a scandalous decision in a scandalous case.

    "This case is a conspiracy with the purpose of complicating Turkey's internal politics and intervening in Turkish internal affairs," he told reporters.

    Turkey's foreign ministry added: "The US court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called 'evidence', which is fake and open to political exploitation ... made an unprecedented interference in Turkey's internal affairs."

    The jury in New York City found Atilla guilty on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud but acquitted him of a money-laundering charge. He will be sentenced in April and faces potential decades of jail time.

    The verdict by the 12-person jury against Atilla, the 47-year-old former deputy chief executive officer of Turkey's Halkbank, came after more than three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberation.

    The counts on which the banker was declared guilty included the violation of US sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the US, and defrauding American banks.

    The case against Atilla was built on testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading the operation to evade US sanctions on Iran.

    Zarrab alleged that top Turkish officials, including Erdogan, personally authorised two Turkish banks to join the scheme when he was prime minister, in addition to other ministers.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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