Ilhan Tanir
Nov 20 2017

Zarrab vanishes from court orders

Federal judge Richard Berman postponed jury selection in a trial of suspects allegedly scheming to evade sanctions on Iran. 

Berman announced the one-week delay on Monday, following a behind-closed-doors meeting attended by one of the defendants, former Halkbank deputy chief executive officer Mehmet Hakan Atilla. Berman said jury selection would be made on Nov. 27, with the trial to follow, when “we will immediately proceed to openings and witness testimony.''

Sources close to the court of the Southern District of New York, who spoke to Ahval on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, stated that the trial may be postponed little further due to developments with another defendant, Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, who it is speculated has turned state’s witness.

Court documents show that the court has issued no order to Zarrab since Nov. 10, when rumours surfaced of a possible agreement with prosecutors.

In Monday's court statement, Zarrab’s name didn’t appear once more, rather the case was named, "USA against Mehmet Hakan Atilla".

 

zarrab atilla

The trial has heaped pressure on already strained relations between the Turkish and U.S. governments. On Monday, the ruling AKP’s spokesman said prosecutors were using the case to attack Turkey and spoil relations with key countries.

“The Zarrab case is a clear plot against Turkey, a political case and lacking any legal basis,” Bekir Bozda ğ told a news conference following a cabinet meeting. “The Zarrab case aims to damage Turkey’s ties with Iran, Russia and other countries. Those who are carrying out the Zarrab case through defendants are very clearly using pressure... They are forcing them to make accusations against Turkey.” 

Zarrab was arrested in March 2016 and Atilla was detained 12 months later. They are both accused of evading the sanctions put in place against Iran between 2010 and 2015. 

Over the past week, Turkey has stepped up accusations against the prosecutor and judge in the case, accusing them of links to the G ülen Movement, or "FETO" (Fethullhist Terror Organization), as the government calls it. The government blames the movement for the failed military coup of last year.