Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has expressed discomfort with the inclusion of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a US indictment as the names of Erdoğan and his wife Emine appear in the legal briefs for the trial of Reza Zarrab in the US.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a massive corruption investigation in Turkey implicating senior government figures.
“I wonder whether the person who is standing trial is our esteemed president or Emine Erdoğan,” Bozdağ asked on a Turkish TV station.
Following up on President Erdoğan’s remarks arguing the innocence of Turkish-Iranian businessman Zarrab, who is currently in jail pending trial in the US, Bozdağ said the Turkish government would “take care of” all the rights of Zarrab in line with the Turkish Constitution because he is a Turkish citizen.
Bozdağ’s remarks came during a program on NTV on Wednesday.
Zarrab was a key figure in a sweeping corruption scandal that broke in late December 2013, targeting President Erdoğan’s inner circle and family members.
US authorities arrested Zarrab in Miami in March on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it faced US sanctions for its nuclear program. The prosecution of Zarrab in New York produced a new front of dispute between the two countries as Turkish authorities expressed concern over the case.
Last week President Erdoğan also accused US prosecutors of taking aim at him in the case against Zarrab and said Zarrab is innocent.
Erdoğan told a group of reporters that he had broached the issue of Zarrab during his talks with US Vice President Joe Biden in New York last week.
The Turkish president harshly criticized the US prosecutors for trying to implicate him in the Zarrab case by the inclusion of the businessman’s donations to non-profit educational organization TOGEM, which is linked to his family in the indictment.
“They are not pursuing the law, but are after a network of relationships. It’s interesting that the indictment refers to my wife setting up TOGEM and my ties with that association. My wife and I are not among the founders of that association,” Reuters quoted Erdoğan as saying.
In the information about Emine Erdoğan on the Office of the President website, her role as one of the founding members of TOGEM in 2005 is cited.