Turkey says USA ruling on Turkish banker illegitimate, not credible

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Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman issued a statement after the sentencing saying Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who worked as the deputy manager for Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, helped Iran's government access billions of dollars of assets that had been frozen by U.S. sanctions.

Earlier in 2018, Atilla was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Atilla's sentencing was postponed twice and previously, prosecutors asked a federal judge to sentence him to at least 15 years in prison and a fine of $50,000- $500,000. FETO is the term the Turkish government uses to describe Gulen's network.

The Turkish president has repeatedly condemned Atilla's conviction, most recently on Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. As a result of this scheme, he and his co-conspirators caused US banks to unknowingly process transactions on behalf of the Iranian government, the Justice Department said.

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Prosecutors have said that in early 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating USA sanctions.

"It is so serious that everybody is a victim of it", the prosecutor said.

Berman said the lengthier prison terms recommended would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

Reports say USA prosecutors wanted 15 years sentence for Atilla but the bankers lawyers sought a sentence of less than four years.

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"Mr. Atilla was, at most, a cog in the wheel of the Zarrab scheme", they said. Those included Turkish government officials and Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla.

A month later, a NY judge turned down a request by Atilla to acquit him of all charges due to lack of evidence, saying there was "sufficient evidence" to support the charges. He is married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes. He was acquitted on one count of money laundering.

The sentence was "inconsistent with the principle of a fair trial", Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

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