Turkish banker jailed in US wants 15 Turkish witnesses to testify in Iran sanctions case
Razi Canikligil – NEW YORK
Hakan Atilla, a deputy general manager of Halkbank who was arrested in the U.S. in March on charges of cooperating with Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab in order to evade sanctions against Iran, has requested that a total of 15 Turkish witnessed be listened to by the court.
Atilla’s lawyer, Cathy Fleming, told judge Richard Berman in a hearing on Sept. 25 that they had identified and spoken with the 15 witnesses. As these people do not want to travel to the U.S. for the hearing, their testimonies could be taken online, she said.
Fleming said during the hearing that they could only provide the names of the witnesses after the New York court provides them with all the evidence in the case.
She recalled that they had appealed the charges against Hakan Atilla in the former indictment and they would renew their objections to the newly prepared indictment.
With the inclusion of the former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan as one of the suspects in the case, the indictment has been renewed once again.
The U.S. indictment broadens a case targeting Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is still in prison in the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Berman told the New York court on Sept. 25 that the the new trial, which was set to begin Oct. 30, will not start until Nov. 27 at the earliest, due in part to the newly prepared indictment.
The Sept. 25 hearing was watched by the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) U.S. representative Yurter Özcan and CHP Deputy Chair Erdal Aksünger.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet after the hearing, Aksünger said he was in attendence to identify problems that Turkey could face regarding the case and to make the necessary warnings.
He said the list of witnesses that the defense wants to submit to the court could include names “in the role of figurants,” warning that this could lead to “bartering with the U.S.” that could damage Turkey.
U.S. prosecutors accuse Atilla of conspiring with Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran’s government and other entities in Iran.
Zarrab was arrested in Miami in March last year on charges that could see him sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, while Atilla was arrested in New York on March 27.