Mar 27 2018

Turkish lawyer seeks arrest of fmr U.S. district attorney

The U.S. district attorney who launched the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla for breaking sanctions on Iran may think twice about setting foot in Turkey, after a Turkish lawyer circulated a demand for his detention.

Preet Bharara, the former district attorney for the Southern District of New York, began proceedings against Atilla and Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab after details emerged during corruption investigations in December 2013 of a scheme to bypass international sanctions on Iran by moving money through Halkbank, a Turkish state-owned bank.

The ensuing investigation, and Zarrab’s testimony during Atilla’s trial last December, implicated top Turkish state officials, including former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan, who allegedly accepted multimillion dollar bribes in the scheme, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is said to have given it the go-ahead.

The Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) claims that the U.S. trials are part of a long-running series of plots to topple the government by followers of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist cleric accused of masterminding the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Burak Bekiroğlu, a Turkish lawyer for an anti-Gülen civil association, submitted the document to the Turkish chief prosecutor’s office on Tuesday, demanding the release of an official arrest warrant for Bharara and Michael Rubin, an American Enterprise Institute scholar with a notoriously hostile line on the AKP.

Zafer Akın, Faruk Taban, Kemal Öksüz and Emre Çelik, U.S.-based Turkish citizens with alleged links to Gülen, were also named on the document, which recommended Turkey put out a red notice, calling for Interpol’s arrest of all six.

Bekiroğlu accuses the six of “attempting to prevent the Turkish government from functioning,” “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” and “using the judiciary to attempt a coup,” referencing the December 2013 investigations and the trials triggered by Bharara in the United States.

“Maybe I will be arrested during my live Podcast at the Apollo,” tweeted Bharara in response to news of Bekiroğlu’s demand.

Metin Külünk, an AKP Istanbul MP known for being close to Erdoğan, tweeted his support for the motion with a picture of the title page of the document, which he called “118 extremely important pages”, going on to thank Bekiroğlu for his efforts.