Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the Turkish banker released from prison in the U.S. last week over Iran sanctions violations, received a warm welcome at Istanbul Airport on Wednesday morning.
Atilla boarded the Turkish Airlines flight in New York JFK Airport and landed in Istanbul around 11.30 a.m. local time (0830GMT) after being detained for 32 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.
Hakan Atilla (center) sits with Turkish ambassador and consul general in New York JFK Airport before his departure on Tuesday, July 24, 2019 (AA Photo)
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.
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."