A US court on Friday exposed a different dimension to a case involving Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who has been on trial in Manhattan for three weeks on charges related to violating sanctions on Iran.
Judge Richard M Berman of the Federal District Court criticised Atilla’s lawyers for bringing Turkish political disputes to a US courtroom.
“The defense appears quite willing to join a rather far-fetched conspiracy theory bandwagon, which has been constructed and developed far outside any United States courtroom,” said the judge.
Atilla was accused of conspiring with another Iranian-Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab, to smuggle oil for gold, evading US sanctions on Iran.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the accusations were fabricated by the “Gulenists” – followers of Fethullah Gulen, who was accused of plotting a failed coup against Erdoğan last year – and called for an end to the trial.
The judge, in response, said the government’s evidence had not been properly authenticated and was highly prejudicial. “In my judgment,” he said, “Mr Atilla has received and is receiving a thoroughly fair and transparent trial.”