World Bulletin / News Desk
A panel of six men and six women are considering six charges against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy CEO of Turkey’s Halkbank – that country’s biggest bank.
Atilla was arrested in the U.S. earlier this year for allegedly violating American sanctions against Iran.
Turkish businessman Riza Sarraf was arrested last year in the U.S. on similar charges and pleaded guilty. He is now cooperating with American authorities by testifying against Atilla.
The case has drawn criticism from Turkey and deepened the already tenuous relationship between Washington and Ankara -- two NATO allies that have increasingly found themselves on opposite sides of issues.
There was drama as testimony in the three-week-old trial approached its end when prosecutors questioned Atilla based on a report prepared by a fugitive member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Osman Zeki Canıtez, in an attempt to strengthen the government’s case.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen are accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016, failed coup that was beat back in Turkey but left 250 martyrs and nearly 2,200 injured.
Defense attorneys were unsuccessful in obtaining a mistrial on grounds the report was introduced late and was not included in the list of evidence material at the start of the trial.
The "outrageous," move by prosecutors to introduce a report prepared in a foreign country without accurate information in it was nothing but a ploy to influence the jury, according to defense counsel Cathy Fleming.
"I believe this is a report by somebody, who's a fugitive," she told the court. "It is filled with hearsay."
The defense also appealed for a mistrial based on testimony from another FETO fugitive, Huseyin Korkmaz, who they said “submitted stolen evidence” and “testified wrongly.”
The disgraced former police official admitted in court he stole documents related to an investigation and roundup of scores of FETO suspects in Turkey in late 2013.
Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on Tuesday criticized the case against Atilla for having “no legal validity”.
Cross-examination showed "the case has actually collapsed”, he told a Turkish news channel.
"We watch regrettably that this case, which was opened in order to protect the financial interests of the U.S., is proceeding to serve the purpose of completing an unfinished operation of a terrorist organization against Turkey," Gul wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week, in reference to FETO.
Observers predict a verdict would be reached within a couple of days but if jurors fail to come to a unanimous decision, the judge may declare a mistrial, after which prosecutors would have to decide if to retry Atilla.
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