ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Ankara government on Thursday expressed outrage over a decision by a US jury that found the deputy director of a majority state-owned Turkish bank guilty on charges of helping Iran evade American sanctions.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in a press conference that the whole trial at New York’s Manhattan federal court was “a clear, scandalous political operation and plot against our nation.”
The court convicted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the executive at Turkey’s Halkbank, on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, Reuters reported.
Prosecutors have also charged Turkish-Iranian business tycoon Reza Zarrab and his co-conspirators of handling hundreds of millions of US dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015.
Kalin called the decision “shameful” and alleged that followers of the US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen infiltrated the American judiciary. He went on saying the US was meddling with domestic Turkish affairs.
Prosecutors were accusing Atilla of conspiring with Zarrab to help Iran circumvent sanctions, using fraudulent gold and food transactions. Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecutors.
“The judge presiding over this trial was two years ago hosted in Turkey by a FETO institution,” Kalin claimed, using a Turkish acronym for the Gulen movement that Erdogan’s administration uses for its one-time ally and current opponent.
In the run-up to this week’s decision, pro-government Turkish media have run extensive stories on Federal Judge Richard Berman’s alleged ties with Gulenists.
One of the witnesses in the trial, Huseyin Korkmaz, a former Turkish police officer who took part in an anti-corruption operation targeting several ministers in 2013, told the jury last month that the then Prime Minister Erdogan was their number one target.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul went a little further than the President's aide.
“We deem the case as an assault on Turkey’s sovereignty,” said Gul.
The Foreign Ministry which has so far issued two diplomatic protestations over the case said the ruling was “unjust and unfortunate.”
“Based on the so-called ‘evidence,’ which are forged and susceptible to political manipulation, and dwelling on Turkey’s internal affairs on a fictitious basis, the US court has been drawn into Turkey’s domestic affairs in an unprecedented way,” a press release on the ministry’s website read.
It also echoed the President’s office, alleging that Gulen movement’s members were behind the scheme, accusing the US of financially and logistically supporting the group.
“The reliability and the credibility of the trial have vanished,” it said.
The ruling has added to the strained ties between the two NATO allies which are at odds over continued US military aid for Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State in Syria, the arrest of at least two American consular employees by Turkish police last year, and perceived US support to Gulenists.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany