Ankara: US sen­tenced Turk­ish banker with false ev­i­dence

Ankara crit­i­cized the U.S. court de­cree sen­tenc­ing the deputy head of Turk­ish state-lender Halkbank to 32 months in prison, un­der­lin­ing that the de­ci­sion is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and based on forged ev­i­dence and state­ments fab­ri­cated by sup­port­ers of Fetu

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

THE U.S. court sen­tenced Hakan Atilla, a banker at Turk­ish state-lender Halkbank, to 32 months in prison af­ter an en­tirely feigned process which is in­con­sis­tent with the prin­ci­ple of fair trial, the Turk­ish Foreign Min­istry said on Wed­nes­day.

The Foreign Min­istry said on Wed­nes­day a U.S. court’s sen­tenc­ing of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a banker at state-lender Halkbank, to 32 months in prison was not le­git­i­mate or cred­i­ble due to fake ev­i­dence and in­cor­rect state­ments dur­ing the trial.

The state­ment came af­ter the judge in the case, Richard Ber­man, sen­tenced Atilla to 32 months in prison with credit for time served.

“By con­vict­ing a foreign gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, this court made an un­prece­dented de­ci­sion re­gard­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of U.S. sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion,” the state­ment said, adding that the rul­ing came af­ter an en­tirely feigned process that is in­con­sis­tent with the prin­ci­ple of a fair trial.

The min­istry ac­cused the U.S. court of tak­ing forged ev­i­dence and state­ments fab­ri­cated by sup­port­ers of Fe­tul­lah Gülen, the leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), who is also ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing a failed coup in 2016, and said Atilla had been sen­tenced de­spite be­ing in­no­cent.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Bekir Boz­dağ also crit­i­cized the de­ci­sion yes­ter­day, say­ing that the U.S. prison sen­tence given to a Turk­ish banker lacks any le­gal foun­da­tion.

“This trial was not le­gal but po­lit­i­cal,” Boz­dağ, a gov­ern­ment spokesman, said in a se­ries of tweets, stat­ing that the court de- ci­sion came as the re­sult of a fic­ti­tious trial process.

In mid-April, Judge Richard Ber­man said in a writ­ten state­ment that Atilla’s sen­tenc­ing was post­poned be­cause Turk­ish trans­la­tors were un­avail­able for the ear­lier date and added that the de­fense also made an “ex­ten­sive sub­mis­sion” that the court has taken un­der review.

Pre­vi­ously, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors asked the fed­eral judge for at least 15 years in prison and a fine of be­tween $50,000 and $500,000 for Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the for­mer deputy CEO of state lender Halkbank.

In a 75-page pe­ti­tion to the court, Atilla’s lawyers asked the judge for a “fair and mer­ci­ful” sen­tence of be­tween four and five years. Cit­ing sim­i­lar cases in which other na­tional banks vi­o­lated sanc­tions on Iran, the lawyers noted that none of the di­rec­tors of those banks were ar­rested or sen­tenced, but Atilla, who had no con­nec­tion with the U.S., is fac­ing a prison term.

De­fense lawyers also said ev­i­dence showed their client had been used by the “ar­chi­tect of this plot,” Ira­nian-Turk­ish busi­ness­man Reza Zarrab.

Zarrab, who was ar­rested in the U.S. in March 2016 on charges of vi­o­lat­ing U.S. sanc­tions on Iran, plead guilty in the case last Oc­to­ber, co­op­er­ated with pros­e­cu­tors and tes­ti­fied against Atilla. Atilla’s lawyers sought to dis­miss all of the charges last De­cem­ber by cit­ing in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence. They said pros­e­cu­tors were un­able to prove Atilla had any con­nec­tion to Zarrab’s crimes.

But on Jan. 3, Atilla was found guilty by a jury on five counts re­lated to con­spir­acy and bank fraud, but ac­quit­ted on one count of money laun­der­ing.

A month later, Judge Ber­man turned down Atilla’s lawyers’ re­quest to dis­miss all charges due to lack of ev­i­dence, say­ing there was suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sup­port the charges.

Court­room sketch de­pict­ing Turk­ish-Ira­nian gold trader Reza Zarrab on the stand, and Turk­ish banker de­fen­dant Mehmet Hakan Atilla, right, lis­ten­ing dur­ing Zarrab’s fed­eral court trial, Nov. 29, 2017, New York.

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