Erdogan says Turkey values Iranian stability, praises Rouhani

Erdogan says Turkey values Iranian stability, praises Rouhani

Turkey's Foreign Ministry has condemned the conviction as unprecedented meddling in its internal affairs.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank (HALKB.IS), was convicted on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, in Manhattan federal court.

The statement slammed the trial was based on evidence which was fake and open to political exploitation.

Zarrab said that Erdogan personally authorised two Turkish banks to join the scheme when he was prime minister.

Zarrab testified that Atilla helped design fraudulent transactions of gold and food that allowed Iran to spend its oil and gas revenues overseas, including through USA financial institutions, defying US sanctions.

The jury needed about 24 hours of deliberations over four days to find the 47-year-old Atilla guilty after a trial that opened November 28 before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.

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Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a 47-year-old deputy general manager at Turkey's state-run Halkbank, was charged by USA authorities with taking part in a complex scheme in which Iran traded its oil and gas for gold, with some of the proceeds moved through US financial institutions without their knowledge.

Halkbank it hired Ballard Partners, a US lobbying firm that already represented the Turkish government in September, for $1.5 million. The conspiracy to violate the IEEPA and money laundering conspiracy counts each carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

In his testimony Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians, including Erdogan.

Last week, a number of peaceful protests over economic problems started in several Iranian cities, but those gatherings turned violent when groups of participants, some of them armed, vandalized public property and launched attacks on police stations and government buildings. However, in late November, Zarrab pled out, making him a witness for the prosecution. At the time, Erdogan said that Western powers were behind the coup, singling out the United States for "harboring" the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of instigating the failed government overthrow.

"For years, Mehmet Hakan Atilla conspired to use the American financial system to conduct millions of dollars worth of illegal transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran", said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente. His lawyers said they plan to appeal the verdict.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 11. In comments published in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper last month, Erdogan described the leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as "old friends", called recent contacts with them "quite good" and noted that they, like Turkey, oppose a controversial U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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