AKP government reacts to US jury's conviction of Turkish banker

Turkey's AKP government protested the decision of the US court that found Mehmet Hakan Atilla guilty of five of six charges against him
Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy, in Manhattan federal court.
Friday, 05 January 2018 08:27

Turkey's AKP government protested the decision of the US court that found Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey's Halkbank, guilty of five of six charges against him on January 3.

Acquitted of money laundering charges, Atilla was found guilty of conspiring with gold trader Reza Zarrab and 7 others to help Iran escape US sanctions using fraudulent gold and food transactions. Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla, describing a sprawling scheme including bribes to Turkish governmental officials.


"The decision of the jury is not a surprise for us. It is a case of political conspiracy", said Bekir Bozdağ, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson, from his official tweeter account. Bozdağ added "The decision about this case had already been given even before the investigations started. Neither the jury's decision that Atilla's guilty, nor the awaited judgement of the court has any judicial value for Turkey. No country can judge Turkey or any of its institutions. This decision is against the international law." 

İbrahim Kalın, presidential spokesperson, called the decision of the jury "a scandal", adding "It is for sure a conspiracy to meddle with the internal affairs of Turkey. The judge [Richard Berman] had been invited to Turkey some 2 or 3 years ago by FETÖ [Fettullahist Terror Organization], revealing that the whole case is a scheme against Turkey."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey also said "The US jury has unprecedentedly interfered with the internal affairs of Turkey through a case based on false evidence", in an official declaration. "The US provided material and logistical support to some FETÖ members who interfered with the judicial procedure. We hope that the decision of the jury, which is a legal shame, will be corrected ", added the Ministry.   


Erdal Aksünger, the vice chairman of the main opposition party CHP, said "Mehmet Hakan Atilla is a scapegoat" and that "the real criminals are in Turkey", in an interview with soL Turkish.

Reminding that the judge will declare the final verdict on April 11, Aksünger noted that the former Turkish minister Zafer Çağlayan, the former general manager of Halkbank Süleyman Aslan and Zarrab's partner Happani are all likely to get convictions. Aksünger also said Halkbank may get some penal sanctions on April 11, adding "The AKP government is now trying to lay the blame on the public and underestimating the case in the US. And yet it may face unexpected developments. The assets of the people mentioned in the trial reports should be confiscated."


Following the decision of the US jury about Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Turkey's majority state-owned bank Halkbank said "the legal process has not yet been concluded", reminding that Atilla's attorneys may file an appeal against the decisions.

Noting that "there are no executive or financial decisions" of the jury against the bank, Halkbank said the press should not make any news discrediting the bank itself. Halkbank added they are making an effort to develop their "international standards" and keep their "transparent operations."


Turkish daily Cumhuriyet news talked with Prof James J. B. Jacobs, a constitutional law expert in the U.S., regarding the next phase of the case of Atilla. "The judge will need to give a date for a 'trial of the verdict. Although the defendant resorted to effective repentance law and pleaded guilty all the counts against himself, he still needs to face punishment", Jacobs said, adding that these trials usually take place in 30 days.

Prof Jacobs says that the parties should carry out their request of appeal nearly in 30 to 60 days. "Since the defendant resorted to effective repentance and admitted his guilt, he cannot object to the merit but to the punishment", Jacobs said.

In response to a question about the court of appeal, Jacobs said that it takes long time for this court to reach a verdict, adding that it takes at least one or two years for the court to examine all the documents and to take the attorney's defense statements. "At least two of the three judges of the court should agree on the same decision", Jacobs added.

In answer to whether the defendant's detention continues during the request of appeal, Jacob says, "Yes, but, the defendant can demand the suspension of his punishment until the court of appeal is concluded." However, Jacob argues that the acceptance of such a demand is very rare, adding that the judge would decide whether the defendant could be released temporarily upon a parole.