Atilla sentenced to 32 months in U.S. prison over evading Iran sanctions

ImageA branch of the Turkish bank Halkbank

ImageA branch of the Turkish bank Halkbank

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman imposed a sentence of 32 months in prison on the Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of about 20 years for Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen.

A Turkish banker convicted as part of a conspiracy to violate United States sanctions on Iran was sentenced to 32 months in prison Wednesday. During the trial, it was alleged that Erdogan knew about parts of the money laundering scheme, but prosecutors have never pressed charges against him.

While the penalty was significantly lighter than the 20 years sought by prosecutors, the case has strained ties between Turkey and the United States, both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance.

Atilla's attorneys had argued that federal guidelines recommended a term of just 46 to 57 months, and argued for a sentence "dramatically below" that length. That time will count toward his sentence, and he may be freed early for good behaviour.

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins has the latest. Zarrab testified as the prosecutors' star witness against Atilla. Zarrab pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges and testified against Atilla on behalf of the USA government.

Erdogan has said the case was founded on evidence fabricated by followers of US-based self-exilded Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday, the Turkish president said, "If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal", Erdogan said.

"We want his acquittal, because there's no crime". Insisting that Atilla, a deputy CEO who headed global banking at Halkbank, was "not guilty" of taking part in the alleged money laundering scheme, he added that declaring him as such was tantamount to criminalising the Turkish Republic.

In this courtroom sketch Mehmet Hakan Atilla, second from left, listens to the judge during his sentencing, flanked by his attorneys Cathy Fleming, left, and Victor Rocco as Atilla's wife, upper right, listens to the proceedings Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in NY.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday blasted the USA government for prosecuting Atilla, calling the case "a great injustice" and claiming the US case was based on evidence fabricated by followers Fetullah Gulen, a US -based Muslin cleric who has also been blamed for the failed 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

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