US judge postpones Turkish banker’s sentencing

Trial adjourned due to lack of Turkish interpreters

By Safvan Allahverdi

WASHINGTON (AA) - A U.S. judge on Monday again postponed sentencing for a former Turkish banker convicted of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran

Sentencing has been pushed back until May 16 from May 7 because Turkish translators are unavailable on the other date, Judge Richard Berman said in a written statement.

Berman said the defense has also made an "extensive submission" which the court has taken under review.

Previously, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge to sentence Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy chief executive of Halkbank, to at least 15 years in prison and a fine of between $50,000 to $500,000.

In a 75-page petition to the court, Atilla's lawyers asked the judge for a "fair and merciful" sentence of between four to five years.

Citing similar cases in which other national banks violated sanctions against Iran, the lawyers noted that none of the directors of those banks were arrested or sentenced but Atilla, who had no connection with the U.S., is facing a prison term.

Defense lawyers also said evidence showed their client had been used by the “architect of this plot", businessman Riza Sarraf.

Sarraf, who was arrested in the U.S. in March 2016 and accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty in the case last October and cooperated with prosecutors. He testified against Atilla.

Atilla’s lawyers sought to dismiss all charges last December, citing insufficient evidence. They said prosecutors were unable to prove Atilla had a connection with the crimes committed by Sarraf.

But on Jan. 3, Atilla was found guilty by a jury on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.

A month later, a New York judge turned down a request by Atilla to acquit him of all charges due to lack of evidence, saying there was “sufficient evidence” to support the charges.

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