Turkish deputy PM says CIA, FBI, and Islamist group in plot over banker’s sentence

A U.S. federal court’s sentencing of a Turkish banker for his part in a plot to bypass sanctions on Iran lacks any legal foundation and was a plot staged by the CIA, FBI and the U.S. judiciary together with an exile Turkish Islamist group, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Twitter on Thursday.

A New York court sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former deputy general manager of state-owned Halkbank, to the comparatively light sentence of 32 months on Wednesday, after the judge concluded he was but a cog in a larger scheme to use gold from Turkey to pay for oil and gas from Iran and then launder the transactions through Turkish banks.

Turkish-Iranian billionaire gold trader Reza Zarrab pleaded to guilty to running the scheme, turned state’s witness and also testified that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had given him the green light and said a minister had taken millions of dollars in bribes to cover up the plot.

Bozdağ said the court decision was a result of a “fictitious trial” and accused the U.S. court of violating the law and announcing a pre-determined verdict.

Bozdağ accused U.S. authorities of acting in coordination with what the Turkish government calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ), followers of the U.S.-based Turkish Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, formerly an ally of the Turkish government, who it now accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in Turkey in 2016.

“There is no crime committed, no criminal, no criminal evidence, no fair judgment, no independent court, no impartial judge and no prosecutor. But there's a play with a script written and staged by the CIA, the FBI, the FETÖ, the U.S. judiciary,” Bozdağ said. 

Bozdağ said the verdict was political and accused the judge of being a favourite of FETÖ. He also accused the FBI of giving $50,000 to a witness with links to FETÖ and instructing him how to behave in the courtroom. He said a legal expert of the trial was from an organisation that had received donations from the Gülen movement. 

Turkey, Bozdağ said, was a sovereign and independent country. “Another country cannot judge Turkey and Turkey's institutions, and cannot sentence Turkey,” he said.