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Turkey urges US to drop gold trader Zarrab case

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With the trial of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab due to in New York this week, Ankara on Monday called on Washington to drop the case involving Zarrab, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“I am asking those judging the case in the US, do you have valid evidence against Rıza Sarraf [Reza Zarrab] or not,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said in an interview with TV 24.

“In this case actually, there is no valid evidence in accordance with US law,” he said, adding: “There is no valid evidence because evidence against the law cannot be used.”

According to Bozdağ, the case lacks legal grounds and must be dropped or terminated.

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.

Nine people including Zarrab, Turkey’s Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Turkish Economy Minister Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan and former Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan have been criminally charged with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran in the case in New York. Zarrab and Atilla have been held in a US prison.

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.

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.

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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