Turkey condemns Halkbank sentencing as political attack
Turkey condemns Halkbank sentencing as political attack
Turkish Banker Gets 32 Months in Prison Following Iranian-Sanctions Conviction
18 May, 2018, 10:51
"Mr. Atilla was, as the defense suggests, somewhat of a cog in the wheel, and I would add a somewhat reluctant one", Judge Berman said during a three-hour court proceeding that mostly featured the judge explaining how he chose a far lighter sentence.
The legal proceedings have caused further division between the USA and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey.
A U.S. judge sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker at Turkey's Halkbank, to 32 months in prison on Wednesday after he was found guilty of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade USA sanctions. That time will count toward his sentence, and he may be freed early for good behaviour.
But the judge decided on a dramatically shorter prison term than the life sentence recommended by US probation authorities and the 20 years urged by prosecutors.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the case and once again defended Atilla's innocence in an interview on Bloomberg TV before the sentencing. It has previously said that all of its transactions were lawful.
At one point, an emotional defendant wiped his face with tissues as the judge read excerpts from 101 letters written by friends, family and work associates of Atilla describing the 47-year-old husband and father as a compassionate and religious man who frequently helped others.
The sentence was "inconsistent with the principle of a fair trial", Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.
Erdogan has said the case was founded on evidence fabricated by followers of US-based self-exilded Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The trial against Atilla "was not legal but political", Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on his Tweeter account.
"If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal", Erdogan said.
Prosecutors have said that in early 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating U.S. sanctions.
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