I New York starter en rettssak mandag som allerede har skadet forholdet mellom USA og Tyrkia, som fra før er dårlig. En gullhandler og en bankmann er tiltalt i en sak som gjelder brudd på amerikanske sanksjoner mot Iran.
Det som gjør saken delikat, er at begge befinner seg i kretsen rundt president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, som mener saken er et komplott mot ham og Tyrkia.
Å trå Erdogan for nær, betyr trøbbel, og USA, Tyskland og en rekke land er i klammeri med Erdogan. Men når det gjelder sanksjoner mot Iran, er USA steil.
The arrest of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader, in Miami last year on charges of conspiring with Turkish banking and government officials to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions upset the authorities in Ankara. At the time, Mr. Erdogan said U.S. prosecutors may have had “ulterior motives” to implicate his government. Now, indications that Mr. Zarrab, a 34-year-old businessman, may be cooperating with U.S. prosecutors is further infuriating Turkish government officials.
“You are putting my citizen on trial and trying to make him confess,” Mr. Erdogan said in a recent televised speech. “Is this democracy? Is this justice?”
Hva vil Erdogan oppnå ved å rette slike anklager mot USA og det amerikanske rettssystemet? Han svekker bare sin sak. Ved å legge seg opp i en rettssak, indikerer Erdogan at Tyrkia er involvert.
Saken har åtte andre tiltalte, men bare én av dem er i varetekt. Han sitter imidlertid på informasjon Ankara frykter skal komme ut:
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former manager at Halkbank , a large state-owned Turkish bank. Mr. Atilla, who has also pleaded not guilty, has been in U.S. custody since his arrest in March.
Mediene tror at Zarrab kan ha inngått en avtale med påtalemakten om å samarbeide.
There have been several signs in recent weeks that Mr. Zarrab, who had been scheduled to begin trial with Mr. Atilla, may be cooperating. For one, his lawyers haven’t participated in any court hearings or filed pretrial motions since September. Former law-enforcement officials also say Mr. Zarrab’s “released” status on the Bureau of Prisons website could mean he has been relocated to facilitate cooperation.
If Mr. Zarrab is cooperating, he could bolster the U.S. case by helping to authenticate Turkish court documents that prosecutors have cited in pretrial proceedings.
Disse dokumentene ble kjent i 2013. De viser at korrupsjonen foregikk i Erdogans innerste sirkler og at han selv var involvert. Erdogan svarer at dokumentene er produsert av Fetullah Gülen. Dette bare ler amerikanerne av.
En av de tiltalte in absentia er en tidligere tyrkisk økonomiminister.
U.S. prosecutors have argued in court papers that Turkish government and banking officials were “integral to the sanctions evasion scheme.” One of the defendants is a former Turkish economy minister. At Mr. Atilla’s trial, prosecutors are expected to present jurors with the 2013 wiretap recordings, including conversations in which Mr. Zarrab allegedly indicated he had discussed his efforts with Mr. Erdogan.
The Turkish government says the 2013 documents were fabricated by supporters of Mr. Gulen. The cleric has denied being behind the documents.
Turkish authorities recently said the use of the leaked documents made U.S. prosecutors accomplices of Mr. Gulen.
Responding to the accusation, Joon Kim, the acting Manhattan U.S. attorney, told reporters on Tuesday: “Needless to say, it’s our view that those claims are ridiculous on their face.” Prosecutors handling the case are “not Gulenists,” he said.
Allerede den gang var lov og rett i Tyrkia snudd på hodet. De rettskafne ble kastet i fengsel og de korrupte forfremmet.
Operatører som Zarrab har en svakhet: De liker å bevege seg rundt i verden, de har en hang til luksus og til å besøke de gjeveste stedene. Fremdeles betyr det at de kan havne i garnet til myndigheter som opprettholder lov og orden.
In January 2013, fog enveloping parts of Istanbul forced a plane arriving from Ghana to land at an airport on the European, rather than the Asian, side of the city. Inspecting the unscheduled aircraft, customs found an undeclared load of gold.
Turkish prosecutors traced the cargo to Mr. Zarrab, according to the 2013 court documents. U.S. prosecutors suspect the shipment was part of a broader barter arrangement under which Mr. Zarrab violated U.S. sanctions by allegedly purchasing natural gas from Iran, paying for it in gold.
The plane was allowed to leave, but prosecutors began tapping Mr. Zarrab’s phone, according to the court documents. In late 2013, he was arrested along with more than 50 others on corruption charges, which he denied.
Days later, however, Mr. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, said the investigation was a conspiracy against him. Mr. Zarrab, whom he called “a philanthropist who has benefited the country,” was released. While charges against him were dropped, several officials involved in the aborted prosecution were demoted or jailed.
I 2016 kom Zarrab med familie på besøk til Florida. Dermed røk han inn. Hvis Zarrab har inngått en såkalt lea bargain med amerikansk justis, kan det bety nye avsløringer om Erdogan og hans krets, og denne gang kan han ikke kaste dem i fengsel.
Saken har vært imøtesett og har fått så stor oppmerksomhet at kursen på tyrkiske lira har falt 13 % på to måneder.