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Judges who released Korkmaz in 2015 purged from positions

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Two judges who in 2015 released Hüseyin Korkmaz, a former İstanbul police officer who testified at the New York trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank accused of helping launder money for Iran, were appointed to new posts by a judicial decree on Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, judge Ahmet Civelek, the department head of the Istanbul Regional Court, was appointed as a judge in Mersin province, while Cantürk Taşkın, a judge in Istanbul, was appointed as a judge in Adana province by means of a decree issued by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

The positions of 92 judges and prosecutors have been changed by HSYK decree.

Korkmaz was arrested by the government in the aftermath of corruption operations in late 2013 that implicated the inner circle of the ruling AKP government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was released in 2015.

Korkmaz on Dec. 11 in a New York court called then-Prime Minister and current President Erdoğan the “No. 1” target in a group that also included Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, the former economy minister, and Süleyman Aslan, a former chief executive at Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank that was central to a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

On Dec. 20 detention warrants were issued for Korkmaz’s mother, father, wife, two sisters, brother and lawyer over his testimony in court in which he said he had given documents to his mother for safekeeping.

The police could not find any of the six people at their addresses of record.

Korkmaz said in the New York court that the investigation initially focused on an organization run by Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab but later grew to include dozens of others.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in December 2013 and was alleged to have 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.

Police notes of the Dec. 17, 2013 operations show that Zarrab personally talked with Erdoğan on April 13, 2013 and asked for an official police guard. Erdoğan and his Cabinet approved it immediately.

A phone call and a video in the Dec.17 file show that Zarrab in July 2013 sent an unspecified amount of money to the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), run by Bilal Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s son.

Zarrab, who was arrested in the US in March 2016, and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and three Halkbank executives, 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.

A recording recently released by the New York court — evidence in the Hakan Atilla trial — indicates that Zarrab told others involved that the scheme had the backing of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and then-Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

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