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Turkey seeks Interpol red notices for prosecutors of Dec. 17 graft probe

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As the trial of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab starts in New York this week, Turkey on Monday requested Interpol red notices for three former prosecutors who were responsible for corruption operations carried out on Dec. 17, 2013 in which Zarrab and Turkish government officials were investigated, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

According to the report the supreme court has ruled to issue a request for red notices for ex-prosecutors Zekeriya Öz, Celal Kara and Mehmet Yüzgeç for “irregularities” in the Dec. 17 corruption investigation allegedly committed by the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government of mounting a coup attempt last year, but the movement strongly denies any involvement.

The wives of former police chiefs Yakub Saygılı, Kazım Aksoy, Ömer Köse, Nazmi Ardıç and Mustafa Demirhan, who led the corruption operations on Dec. 17, 2013 and an operation on the Iran-backed Tevhid-Selam network in Turkey in 2010, were detained by Turkish police on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16.

The operations came amid a crisis between Turkey and the US over the arrest of Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who has been charged in Manhattan with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 in which with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped in Turkey.

President Erdoğan demanded the release of Zarrab as well as the firing of former US Attorney Preet Bharara, during a private meeting with then-US Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 21, 2016, devoting half the 90-minute conversation to Zarrab, David Ignatius wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 12.

Zarrab and eight other people, including a former economy minister and three executives of Turkish state-owned Halkbank, have been charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.

Accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes from the scheme is former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan, who the Turkish government says acted within Turkish and international law, but only Zarrab and Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla have been arrested by US authorities.

Fitch Ratings said last week that the US investigation into a group of Turkish traders and bankers accused of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran could put Turkish banks’ ratings under pressure if the situation escalates.

Cahit Akbulut, a New York-based lawyer who is closely following a case against Zarrab said last week that Zarrab is going to cooperate with US authorities.

President Erdoğan last week said the case against Zarrab is a conspiracy against Turkey.
“One of the biggest traps of history was organized under the mask of law on Dec. 17-25 [2013]. They take the conspiracy and put it into practice in the US after they failed due to the tough stance and foresight of our nation,” said Erdoğan.

President Erdoğan on Oct. 24 strongly criticized the US administration for allegedly trying to force Zarrab to give them names from the Turkish government, saying he would explain all the details.

“They are driving him [Zarrab] into a corner, trying to make him an informer by saying, ‘If you mention those names, it [your prison term] will be this long, if you mention those names it will be that long’,” Erdoğan said, adding: “We are following this. We know how to set the world on fire when all those issues are done. We will tell all.”

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