Turkey slams US court ruling on banker as ‘unjust, unfortunate’

Press TV- Ankara has slammed a US court ruling that convicted a Turkish banker for allegedly helping Iran evade Washington’s sanctions as “unjust and unfortunate,” saying the trial amounted to unprecedented interference in Turkey’s internal affairs.

“It is an unjust and unfortunate development that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

 “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 statement read.

It came a day after a jury in New York found  Mehmet Hakan Atilla guilty on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has yet to comment on the court ruling, has previously dismissed the case as a politically motivated attempt to bring down the Turkish government.

In comments made on Twitter, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday that the US jury’s decision does not carry any legal value for Turkey and is in breach of international laws.

Bozdag said the court ruling was clear evidence that the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had cooperated with the network of the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the failed July 2016 coup.

Halkbank has denied any wrongdoing, saying that its transactions were in line with national and international regulations.

In a statement, Halkbank said Atilla had the right to appeal against the decision.

Already strained ties between Ankara and Washington have deteriorated recently after Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab gave a testimony in a US court, implicating Erdogan in an alleged Iran sanctions-busting scheme.

Zarrab, a Turkish citizen of Iranian descent,  said in a New York court that he had been told in 2012 by the then economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, that Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, had personally instructed Ziraat Bank and VakifBank to participate in the scheme to allegedly help Iran evade US sanctions.

The businessman also noted that he had bribed Caglayan and Halkbank’s former general manager, Suleyman Aslan, to facilitate deals with the Islamic Republic.

US prosecutors have charged a total of nine people in the case with purportedly conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions, but only Zarrab and Atilla have been arrested.

The recent court ruling is likely to add to the tensions between the NATO allies.

Turkey is outraged by the US’s refusal to extradite Gulen. Washington says there should be enough evidence supporting the claim that the cleric was involved in the abortive military coup.