Delay in Reza Zarrab case stirs up Turkish politics
The postponement by a week of a New York court case regarding Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab has further heated up Turkish politics, amid alleged involvement of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in the criminal activities Zarrab is accused of.
“The trial and jury selection are adjourned for one week and will commence on Monday, Nov. 27,” the New York court records read on Nov. 20.
“Once the jury is selected, we will immediately proceed to openings and witness testimony,” it added. Following this postponement, the hearing has been moved back to Dec. 4.
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.
The prosecutor’s indictment included senior government officials, including Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy general manager of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, accusing them of engaging in criminal activities including bribery and corruption as part of Zarrab’s operations.
Zarrab is widely known in Turkey as his name appeared in the December 2013 corruption probes embroiling four former ministers and other state officials. The 34-year-old Zarrab is also married to Turkish pop-star Ebru Gündeş.
The government quashed the December 2013 graft case in 2014, accusing the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of being behind the probes, saying it conspired against the state through its personnel in the judiciary and in the police department.
AKP: Political plot against Turkey
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.
“On Dec. 17 and 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 AKP’s group at parliament.
AKP officials have repeatedly claimed that the case is a “political plot,” with Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ saying on Nov. 20 that “it does not have any legal basis.”
“This is a political case and it does not have a legal basis,” Bozdağ said.
Speaking to France 24, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also said on Nov. 21 to that the U.S. system is being “used to attack Turkey,” listing the cases of Zarrab and Halkbank as “part of the attack.”
President Erdoğan suggested that Turkey has been facing “attacks” since “2010, especially since 2013,” referring to the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption cases.
“But Turkey is not one of those countries that you can play with like a toy. Our animosity is as violent as our friendship is sincere,” he said, claiming that “attacks … aim to discredit Turkey, make it unstable with accusations, smearing and outmaneuvering it, in order to push it in a direction they want.”
Erdoğan accused the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) of becoming a “mouthpiece of FETÖ” to “indict” the ruling party in the case.
“If somebody still continues to indict us with the voice of FETÖ, the reason is that they are playing the role that they were given in the same plot,” he said.
CHP: AKP is accomplice
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, however, slammed the AKP government’s stance on the Zarrab case, accusing the ruling party of “being an accomplice of Zarrab.”
“They are covering the file [on Zarrab] because politicians were partners in those corruption files. Their names are included. Now they are crying and saying it is a ‘national case.’ Can thievery have a nationality?” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Nov. 21, addressing his party group at parliament.
“Why are you thinking about him so much? Why are you getting so heated about it?” the CHP head said, referring to the diplomatic note that Ankara issued to the U.S. for Zarrab.
“Why? Because Zarrab is your accomplice. He is a partner in crime,” he added.
“Zarrab had a place in state protocol. The president, the prime minister, ministers and Zarrab were all in it together,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.