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Turkish banker sentenced to 32 months in US prison

AFP  |  New York 

A Turkish was sentenced today to 32 months in a US prison for plotting to help evade American sanctions, in an explosive case straining ties between and

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, of Turkish lender Halkbank, was convicted by a New York jury on January 3 on five counts of and conspiracy. He was acquitted on one count of money laundering.

handed down the sentence of 32 months in a Wednesday. US prosecutors had wanted him put away for 20 years. Atilla will be free to return to after serving his sentence.

His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by US authorities in 2016 after jetting to with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to World.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a witness after admitting being involved in the to subvert US economic

His testimony identified Atilla as a key organizer, but also implicated former Turkish ministers and even Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has railed against the verdict and the trial, calling it a plot against

"A great injustice is being done against Halkbank," Erdogan told TV in an interview on Monday, calling Atilla "definitely innocent." "There is a judicial procedure and the lawyers of especially are following this judicial process. I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-US relations," he added.

"We want his acquittal, because there's no crime... If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be almost equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal." Relations between Erdogan and have already been damaged by the war in and US prosecution of Turkish presidential bodyguards.

Testifying in court last November, Zarrab said he was told that Erdogan, as in 2012, and had given "instructions" to two public banks to take part in the scheme.

Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying did not violate the US embargo on and that political rivals were behind the case.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, May 17 2018. 01:00 IST