Justice TV, Turkish style

Justice TV, Turkish style

If random strangers at the bus stop or in the subway ask you about a certain court case ongoing in New York, or the fall in the value of the Turkish Lira, then you know something is wrong.

That is what happened last weekend. Shopping malls lacked shoppers despite “Black Friday” discounts; small coffee shops in neighborhoods like Üskudar were almost empty. “People have started to watch their money,” one dessert shop owner told me. “When the dollar goes up, business stops instantly.”

The Reza Zarrab case in the U.S. no longer pertains to the financial transactions of a single man but includes the whole Turkish nation. Unfortunately Ankara is still insulting the U.S.’s judicial process over the Zarrab case. According to a report published in daily Hürriyet, Zarrab’s family is upset with the situation and has sent messages to government officials in Ankara saying they could also become witnesses in the case if the tone remains the same.

According to international law, a U.S. court (or any non-Turkish court) cannot try Turkish government officials. It cannot push charges against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. So the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) trolls and columnists should snap out of their “defend the boss” mode.

However, if Zarrab reveals intimate details about how U.S.-imposed sanctions were evaded, and admits to using the U.S. banking system, than U.S. courts can try the case.

Now that the court documents are on the table, we know that two of the six originally implicated banks have been ruled out of the proceedings. They probably got the warning signs and negotiated a deal with the U.S. Treasury, just like Commerzbank and HSBC did. Turkey could have done the same but it did not. There is a reason for this.

Journalist Pınar Tremblay wrote on the Al-Monitor website that Erdoğan and his cabinet actually want the court case to take longer. “Though Atilla would understandably like a speedy and fair trial, the defense lawyers have been delaying the process: In Ankara corridors, it is agreed that the longer the trial takes, the better for Erdoğan and his cohorts.” Tremblay wrote.

She also added the remarks of a senior bureaucrat: “The case has widened the crack between Erdogan’s inner circle and the top echelons of the AKP. We fear that the state apparatus was bypassed to find a ‘diplomatic solution directly with the U.S.,’ without involving diplomats in this problem. Now that we know for sure Zarrab’s return is not possible, the entire state apparatus is expected to rally behind Erdoğan.”

But the cost of prolonging the trial and casting the issue as a “national security matter” or an “economic coup against Turkey” poses a huge risk. The masses can be set against the U.S. and the West until the cows come home, but if you buy your cow feed from Bulgaria and pay in euros then the loss is yours. This is not pre-revolution Iran and thankfully we do not have oil reserves.

On the plus side, people may at least learn about U.S. legal procedures, witnesses, indictments and the U.S. jury system. Perhaps justice could be the talk of prime time TV in Turkey for a couple of months.