Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former Turkish banker that had been detained in the U.S. over Iran sanctions violations, was transferred from an immigration detention center late Tuesday to the airport to be repatriated to Turkey after being released from prison last week.
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 charge 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.
Zarrab accepted all the U.S. charges against him, including the violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran, money laundering and other charges, and agreed to cooperate as a witness against Atilla. Atilla's lawyers often questioned Zarrab's credibility during the trial; however, a New York jury found Atilla guilty in January on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud through the testimony of Zarrab. He received the punishment of 32 months in prison. Yet, lawyers for Atilla objected to the decision and went for an appeal.
The judge allowed the time he served after being arrested to be credited in the sentence.
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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