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Ankara Calls on Washington to Drop Federal Charges Against Turkish Businessman

Ankara Calls on Washington to Drop Federal Charges Against Turkish Businessman

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017 - 14:15
Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab (right) with his wife, Turkish pop singer Ebru Gundes. Reuters

Ankara has urged Washington to drop federal charges against a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, who is accused of helping Iran evade US sanctions.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Monday that the case against Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab had "no legal basis" and should be "dropped or terminated.”

"There is no valid evidence because illegal evidence cannot be used," Bozdag said in an interview with a TV channel.

Zarrab, 34, an Iranian-Turk who ran a foreign exchange business and gold dealership, managed an oil-for-gold arrangement that drew him accolades in Turkey.

He was arrested in 2016 in the United States, and US prosecutors said he was behind a scheme to avert hundreds of millions of dollars in sanctions against Iran.

On Monday, a jury selection began in the Federal District Court trial amid broad speculation that defendant Zarrab, who is accused of managing a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for Iranian oil, has entered into a plea bargain with the prosecution and may reveal damaging evidence about corruption and illegal dealings in high places.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast the trial as a continuation of a coup attempt against him in 2016, and his officials have begun a sweeping media campaign to depict the case as a conspiracy against Turkey and the charges as fabricated.

Bozdag has previously said that the case is "political," and that Ankara views the defendants as "hostages" caught up in "a clear plot against Turkey."

Ankara also has alleged that the case is a "conspiracy" instigated by Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of being the mastermind behind a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

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