Erdoğan: Imprisonment of former banker in U.S. has saddened all of Turkey

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 26.07.2019 00:41

The process that Hakan Atilla,of a former Turkish banking executive who was released last week from a U.S. federal prison, had to go through has saddened all of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a press conference yesterday.

"During our phone conversation, I've told him to spend time with his family and then come and visit me in the Presidential Complex. There are no barriers between us, he is our son," the president said and asked: "Who will we embrace if not him?" Meanwhile, the lawyer of Atilla said Wednesday that his appeal hearing will be in October. "The court of appeals determined that the first hearing of the case of Mehmet Hakan Atilla will be held during the week of Oct. 21," Halil Uzun told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Uzun said the judicial process is ongoing and Atilla hopes the court of appeals will overturn his conviction.

He stressed that there will not be any more hearings and they will wait for the court's decision.

Atilla's conviction is seen as a result of a plot by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Atilla boarded a Turkish Airlines flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and landed in Istanbul on Wednesday at around 11:30 a.m. local time after being sentenced for 28 months.

Atilla's family and a group of Turkish officials, including the Minister of Finance and Treasury Berat Albayrak greeted him at the airport.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the former Halkbank executive to welcome him, reports said. The Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kılıç and Turkish Consul General in New York Alber Aktaş accompanied Atilla at the airport before his departure.

Atilla, a former executive at state-lender Halkbank, was released last Friday after the judge ruled that he had served his time.

Back in 2016, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab was arrested in the U.S. on the charges of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. However, later, he turned state's evidence against Turkey and entered the American witness protection program. He testified against the former deputy CEO of Turkey's state-run lender Halkbank, Atilla, who was arrested in March 2017 while on a business trip in the U.S.

When Atilla was convicted, Turkey blasted the verdict as "a scandalous decision in a scandalous case" and "a conspiracy aimed at complicating Turkey's internal politics and intervening in Turkey's internal affairs." Ankara has repeatedly criticized Atilla's conviction, calling it "politically motivated."

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