Razı Canikligil - ISTANBUL / Hürriyet
Adem Arıcı says he visited Cuba to materialize a religious obligation.
Adem Arıcı, a Turkish-American supermarket chain owner in New York, is facing up to a 15 year prison sentence for defying the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, according to daily Hürriyet.
Arıcı is charged with two counts: The first for defying the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) and the second for threatening a witness.
The TWEA gives the president of the United States the authorization during wartime, or any other moment of national emergency, the ability to limit or control trade between the U.S. and foreign governments or bodies it deems as enemies. Specifically, the act calls for the president to be able to investigate, void or prohibit any acquisition of property or finance to or from a foreign country, or its nationals, with any citizen or territory of the U.S.
The first count on Arıcı carries a five year prison sentence and a $250,000 penalty. The second, a more serious count, carries a 20 year prison sentence and another $250,000 penalty, according to the source. Arıcı is currently out of jail on $1 million bail.
According to the charges, Arıcı and American
lawyer Marc Verzani invested millions of dollars in the Cuban real estate market. Arıcı, in a phone interview with daily Hürriyet, argued that he went to Cuba to sacrifice 630 sheep for the Kurban Bayram holiday.
“They want to lynch me. They are doing this only because I am Turkish,” Hürriyet quoted Arıcı as saying.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Prosecutor Preet Bharara, however, issued a firm statement: “As the charges state, the defense put their own business interests ahead of the embargo and then tried to cover it up. Now they will be held accountable for their crimes.”