Turkey says US conviction of banker ‘unjust’

Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, was convicted on five of six counts

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday slammed a US jury’s decision to convict a Turkish banker for helping Iran evade sanctions as “unjust and unfortunate” and cast the trial as unprecedented interference in Ankara’s internal affairs.

The decision, which capped a nearly four-week trial that had already strained diplomatic relations between Turkey and the United States, is only likely to add to the tension between the Nato allies.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank, was convicted on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.

“It is an unjust and unfortunate development that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The US court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called ‘evidence’, which is fake and open to political exploitation … made an unprecedented interference in Turkey’s internal affairs.” President Tayyip Erdogan, who has yet to comment on the decision, has previously dismissed the case as a politically motivated attack on his government.

In a statement, Halkbank said Atilla had the right to appeal against the decision and said it had not been a party to the US case and noted there had been no financial or administrative decision taken against it by the court.

Halkbank has denied any wrongdoing and said that its transactions were in line with local and international regulations.

Shares of Halkbank were up 2 per cent at 11.14 lira in Istanbul, after earlier advancing as much as 4 per cent.

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