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US urged to drop case against trader, banker
November 28, 2017
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Ankara: Turkey on Monday urged Washington to drop a case against a gold trader and a top Turkish banker accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, saying it had no legal basis.

Businessman Reza Zarrab was arrested by US authorities in March 2016 while Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, was taken into custody in March.

They were due to go on trial this week but the selection of jury members was delayed to Monday. The trial’s opening is now expected on Dec.4.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the case had “no legal basis” and should be “dropped or terminated.”

“There is no valid evidence because illegal evidence cannot be used,” Bozdag told 24 TV.

“I ask those conducting this case in the US, do you have or not proper evidence that points to Reza Zarrab’s guilt in your hands that is in accordance with US law?”

The case has provoked the ire of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has raised the issue repeatedly in official talks with US administrations under Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

Ankara has alleged that the case is a “conspiracy” by the movement run by Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is accused of ordering the July 15, 2016 attempted overthrow of Erdogan but strongly denies any involvement.

The scheduled trial has added further strain to relations between the US and Turkey.

Analysts say there is potential for embarrassing revelations and the risk of sanctions against one or more Turkish banks which could harm the economy.

Bozdag, who is also government spokesman, said the aim of the case was to cause Turkey’s economy to collapse with sanctions.

Zarrab was one of the main figures of a 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey that Erdogan also sees as a bid by Gulen to bring him down.

US media reports have suggested in recent days that Zarrab may be seeking a plea bargain and shown willingness to testify against Turkey.

Agence France-Presse

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