Turkey hopes gold trader Zarrab will ‘turn back from mistake’, PM says

Turkey hopes gold trader Zarrab will ‘turn back from mistake’, PM says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday he hoped a gold trader cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in the trial of a Turkish banker will “turn back from his mistake”, saying the Iran sanctions-related case targeted Turkey and its economy.

Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab told jurors in New York on Thursday that President Tayyip Erdogan had authorized a transaction in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“This court case has stopped being judicial and became completely political, with the sole aim to corner Turkey and its economy,” Yildirim said at an opening ceremony in Istanbul.

Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty, is cooperating with prosecutors in the criminal trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, who has pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court.

At the time of the alleged conspiracy, Erdogan was Turkey’s prime minister. His spokesman could not be contacted by Reuters. Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey did not violate U.S. sanctions, CNN Turk reported.

U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people in the case with conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions, although only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan

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