Turkey slams U.S. sentencing of Turkish banker on Iran scheme

Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty of helping Iran avoid US sanctions

Today, Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker, will be sentenced for helping Iran evade sanctions.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a United States government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

"Mr. Atilla was, as the defense suggests, somewhat of a cog in the wheel, and I would add a somewhat reluctant one", Judge Berman said during a three-hour court proceeding that mostly featured the judge explaining how he chose a far lighter sentence. Zarrab pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges and testified against Atilla on behalf of the USA government.

Atilla was sentenced in Manhattan on Wednesday to a shorter than anticipated jail time period of 32 months, together with the 14 months he has already served.

There was no immediate response to the sentencing from the Turkish government or Halkbank.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of about 20 years for Atilla.

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Zarrab is still awaiting sentencing, the Justice Department said.

Berman also said Atilla "appears to have led an exemplary life in Turkey", pointing to more than a hundred letters he received from Atilla's family and friends in his support.

A Turkish banker was sentenced on Wednesday to 32 months in a USA prison for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions, in an explosive case straining ties between Ankara and Washington.

But on January 3, Atilla was found guilty by a jury on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.

Atilla will be free to return to Turkey after serving his sentence.

"By sentencing the representative of a foreign country's state bank, the court in question has made a decision on the application of regulations regarding USA sanctions that has no precedent", the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal".

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