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Ankara Slams ‘Scandalous’ US Conviction of Turkish Banker

Ankara Slams ‘Scandalous’ US Conviction of Turkish Banker

Thursday, 4 January, 2018 - 13:00
Mehmet Hakan Atilla (R) a deputy general manager of Halkbank, is shown in this court room sketch with his attorney Gerald J. DiChiara as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York, New York, US, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

A US jury's decision to convict an executive at Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank for helping Iran evade sanctions is "a scandalous decision of a scandalous case", the spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

Ibrahim Kalin made the comment during a news conference in Ankara a day after Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, in a Manhattan federal court.

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag, took to Twitter to describe the trial as a "political conspiracy" of "no legal value to Turkey."

"Turkey is a full sovereign and fully independent country," Bozdag said. "Another country cannot put Turkey's institutions on trial."

The court decision, which capped a trial that had already strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, is likely to further aggravate tension between the NATO allies.

"It is an unjust and unfortunate development" that Atilla was found guilty, Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The US court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called 'evidence', which is fake and open to political exploitation, ... made an unprecedented interference in Turkey's internal affairs."

The case against Atilla was based on the testimony of the wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who cooperated with US prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran.

In his testimony, Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians.

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