Turkey slams US court’s sentencing of former Halkbank manager Hakan Atilla
Turkey has slammed the 32-month sentence handed to Hakan Atilla, a former manager of state-run Halkbank, on charges that he helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
“The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the Deputy Director General of Halkbank, despite being not guilty, to 32 months of imprisonment after an entirely feigned process which is inconsistent with the principle of fair trial,” read a written statement issued by the Foreign Ministry late on May 16.
“By convicting a foreign government official, this court made an unprecedented decision regarding the implementation of the U.S. sanctions legislation,” it said, claiming that the case was based on “fabricated evidence.”
“The Court’s reliance on forged evidence and false statements fabricated by the members of the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization, eradicated the legitimacy of the trial. The credibility of the legal proceedings has vanished completely,” it recalled.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also slammed the sentenced handed to Atilla, saying the case was “FETÖ-motivated,” referring to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have been behind the July 2016 coup attempt.
“A FETÖ-motivated case was opened in New York via an indictment prepared by FETÖ … Why did the jury have a hard time reaching a decision? Who pressured them? Because there is no evidence ... [The case] is completely politically motivated,” Çavuşoğlu said on May 16, speaking in an interview with state-broadcaster TRT in the capital Ankara.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ similarly blasted the U.S. court’s decision in a series of tweets, saying the “trial was not legal but political” and claiming that the court ruling came as the result of a “fictitious trial.”
“The court violated the law and did not hold a fair trial. It simply completed the mandatory procedure for declaring a pre-determined decision,” he wrote.
Bozdağ went on to say that the trail was “a game played and staged by the CIA, the FBI, FETÖ, and the U.S. judiciary.”
He also said the New York court relied on “forged evidence” and “false statements of FETÖ members,” adding that “no one can bring Turkey to heel or influence Ankara with conspiracy cases.”
Atilla was sentenced on May 16 to 32 months in a U.S. prison but he will stay in jail for 18 months as he has already spent 14 months behind bars. He was convicted by a New York jury on Jan. 3 on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy.
His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his celebrity wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a U.S. government witness after admitting to being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.