Turkey’s Erdoğan defines Atilla verdict as ‘serious chain of plots in US,’ says bilateral ties, accords losing validity

“There was a serious chain of plots in the United States” said Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the US court verdict found Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy chief executive officer of state lender Halkbank, guilty of helping Iran evade US sanctions and warned on Friday that bilateral legal accords with the US were ‘losing validity.’

Erdoğan has slammed the recent US verdict saying the US should reconsider its sense of justice. “If this is the US’ sense of justice, then yes, the world is toast. The US must reconsider its sense of justice,” Erdogan told reporters at İstanbul’s International Ataturk Airport ahead of his departure for France.

Claiming that the Iran sanctions case was “full of contradictions” and that the trial had nothing to do with Halkbank, Erdoğan said “Not only that, the things that are going around in the Rıza Sarraf (Reza Zarrab) issue … on the other hand they have attempted a coup in my country,” and added that the US does not respect or take any of Turkey’s recommendations into consideration. “I’m sorry, but is this how you approach this? Then what can be made of the international and bilateral deals between us? They lose validity,” said Erdoğan.

Meanwhile, İlnur Çevik, one of tens of Erdoğan’s chief advisors in luxurious Presidential Palace, claimed in Erdoğan’s mouthpiece Daily Sabah on Friday that the US prosecutors who arrested Zarrab have links to the Gülen movement. He wrote “Yet the trial went on creating a deep impression that Gülen had hijacked the American legal system in New York. A great tragedy for the American legal system and a massive charade.”

Basing on the denial of mistrial requests by Atilla’s attorneys, he also claimed that Judge Richard Berman’s links to the Gülen movement has long overshadowed the trial. Çevik has continued his claims by saying that “The judge and the prosecutors went to pains during the trial to point the finger at Turkish political figures in a bid to serve Gülen,” and added “So it all boils down to a Turkish citizen being persecuted at a New York court that is run by a tainted judge and a questionable prosecutor who butchered justice.”

On late Wednesday, a jury in New York court found Atilla guilty on five counts, but found him innocent on money laundering charges in a trial on breach of US sanctions against Iran. The verdict by a panel of six men and six women came after more than three weeks of testimonies and four days of deliberation. The counts on which the banker was declared guilty included violation of US sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the US and defrauding US banks.

Turkish businessman Rıza Zarrab was arrested in 2016 in the US on similar charges and pleaded guilty. He testified against Atilla in New York federal court in early December that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab said that Turkey’s then-prime minister and current president, Erdoğan, personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme.

Zarrab also said he made payments to secure his release in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes. The Turkish government seized the assets of Zarrab and his relatives following his testimony in the US court.

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