Zarrab’s recusation demand rejected by US judge
ISTANBULA recusation demand submitted by arrested Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab’s lawyers against his case’s judge has been rejected for “lacking merit,” despite the defense’s attempts to validate the demand by quoting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Months after his trial began Zarrab submitted the demand to replace Berman with another judge, claiming that Berman was not impartial for his remarks in which criticized the Turkish legal system and cited Zarrab’s dropped case in Turkey as a basis for this critique.
In his decision Berman said that during the first hearing he had given the text of the statement he made during the panel and received a positive response, adding: “A judge can be occupied with issues such as tracking laws, civil help, education, religion, social, financial issues and issues that depend on trust and government actions which are not related to jurisdiction as he/she can also lecture [on those] and pen down a speech.”
In their recusation demand, Zarrab’s lawyers had presented a statement delivered by Erdoğan on a plane while he was returning from New York, in which he defended that the probe’s prosecutor, Preet Bharara, and Berman were biased since they were “names hosted in Turkey previously by FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization],” referring to the Gülenist movement led by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, which was blamed for the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.
“According to statements made by both our justice and economy ministries, this person [Zarrab] is not guilty. Iran says the same thing. But despite this, this person has been under arrest in the U.S. for six months,” Erdoğan also said.
Zarrab’s lawyers said in their appeal that Erdoğan’s statements “validated the rightness of our recusation demand.”
Meanwhile, upon these claims that Bharara and Berman were hosted by the Gülenist organization in Turkey, which is an outlawed organization, Bharara made a statement and said he had not heard of Gülen until that accusations that he was a Gülen follower, and that he later “googled” him. Bharara also said he had not been to Turkey before in his life.
Currently under trial in the United States, Zarrab, 32, was the prime suspect in a corruption and bribery scandal involving the Turkish government that went public on Dec. 17, 2013. He is accused of being the ringleader of a money laundering and gold smuggling ring in Turkey that circumvented sanctions against Iran.
The charges were dismissed after prosecutors investigating the case were accused by the ruling party and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan of plotting against the government and removed from their posts.
Four former cabinet members - EU Minister Egemen Bağış, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar - were accused in the probe before the cases were dropped.
Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accused Gülen’s followers of using the case to plot against the government, before launching a huge crackdown on the group in state institutions, security bodies and the private sector.