US calls Turkish gov’t accusations of plot in Zarrab case ‘ridiculous’
The United States has called the Turkish government’s accusations of a plot in the case of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab “ridiculous,” referring to an earlier response by Washington on the alleged involvement with last year’s failed coup.
“We’ve heard that story, that old same song and dance from Turkey before, and I would have to give you the same answer as last time they accused us of trying to foment some sort of a coup. And I would say that is ridiculous. We are not engaged in that. Anything related to that particular case, I’d just have to refer you to the Department of Justice,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a daily press briefing on Nov. 21.
When asked whether the latest remarks by Ankara would lead Washington to review its stance on Turkey’s alliance within NATO, Nauert likened it to a “marriage,” stating that relations with some countries “can ebb and flow sometimes.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Nov. 21 repeated his belief that the U.S. case against Zarrab is evidence that the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization’s (FETÖ) “Dec. 17-25 attacks” against Turkey have now extended to the U.S.
“Between Dec. 17 to 25 , the biggest plot targeting our country was staged under the name of the law. When this plot was unsuccessful thanks to our firm stance and our nation’s foresight, they took this plot and staged it in the U.S.,” Erdoğan said, addressing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.
Zarrab was arrested in the U.S. last year on charges that he conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities to evade U.S. sanctions.
He is widely known in Turkey as his name appeared in the December 2013 corruption probes embroiling four former ministers and other state officials.
The judge overseeing the prosecution of Zarrab and Halkbank Deputy General Manager Hakan Atilla said on Nov. 21 that the Turkish government can provide evidence to help the men instead of lobbing criticisms.
Zarrab has stopped appearing in court, prompting speculation he is cooperating with the U.S. and may testify against his co-defendant Atilla.
Lawyers have refused to discuss Zarrab, though he apparently was the subject of a sealed court hearing on No.v 20 when the trial was postponed until next week.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman commented shortly before acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said at a news conference that claims the prosecution is driven by Turkish politics “are ridiculous on their face.”
“Frankly, it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how our justice system works,” he said. “The best way for them to be helpful is to help defense counsel by providing in court any evidence or witnesses they are aware of that could assist the defense,” Berman said.
Cathy Fleming, an attorney for Atilla, told Berman at a pretrial hearing on Nov. 21 that secrecy rules were limiting the ability of the defense to prepare for trial.
She said the lawyers were not allowed to share the name of one trial witness even with their client.