Ankara says US court case ‘plot against Turkey’

Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab is surrounded by reporters in Istanbul. (File photo/AP)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Ankara says US court case ‘plot against Turkey’

ANKARA: The Turkish government on Monday described a court case in the US that has aroused the ire of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a plot against Turkey, saying the suspects were being held like hostages.
Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian national, and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy CEO of Turkish lender Halkbank, are being held in the US on charges of violating sanctions against Iran.
They are to go on trial on Nov. 27. The jury selection took place in New York on Monday.
Turkish officials have already accused the prosecutors behind the case of having links to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Islamic preacher who Ankara blamed for last year’s failed coup, accusations he denies.
“This is a political case devoid of any content,” the government spokesman, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, said after a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“This case is a plot directed against Turkey. Quite clearly the defendants... are being subjected to pressure,” he added.
“They are being held like hostages,” he said.
The case has intrigued opponents of the government in Turkey, where Zarrab was linked to a 2013 corruption scandal that Erdogan denounced as a plot by Gulen to bring down his government.
The intrigue has been intensified by American reports that Zarrab is now cooperating with the US prosecutors, raising the prospect of a plea bargain that could embarrass Ankara.
Bozdag accused the US prosecutors of trying to force the suspects to give statements that will tarnish Turkey but insisted there was “no legitimate evidence.”
“It is very clear the main goal is to damage economic relations with Iran, relations with Russia and economic relations with other countries,” Bozdag said.
Bozdag drew parallels between the December 2013 corruption scandal and this current case, claiming Gulen “had then failed to launch a coup in the (Turkish) judiciary and is now repeating it in the US judiciary.”
Erdogan has repeatedly called for the release of Zarrab and Atilla, with the issue becoming a another bone of contention in the troubled relations between Ankara and Washington.
Zarrab was arrested by US authorities in March 2016 after flying with his pop star wife Ebru Gundes and their daughter to Miami for a Disney World holiday.
Turkish prosecutors on Saturday launched a criminal probe against the American attorneys behind the case — former attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and his successor Joon Kim — on accusations of fabricating the case.


Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

Updated 28 min 7 sec ago
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Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

  • At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra
  • Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead

SALALAH, Oman: Cyclone Mekunu blew into the Arabian Peninsula early Saturday, drenching arid Oman and Yemen with rain, cutting off power lines and leaving at least one dead and 40 missing, officials said.
Portions of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall. The Arabian Sea angrily churned Saturday morning, sending mounds of sea foam into the air. The waves ate into one tourist beach, pulling hunks of it away and toppling thatch umbrellas cemented into the sand.
As Mekunu barreled overhead, the eye of the storm provided a moment’s respite. At one luxury hotel, which already had evacuated its guests, workers sat down early for a traditional “suhoor,” a meal Muslims eat before sunrise during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. They laughed and shared plates by flashlight in a darkened ballroom, the cyclone’s wind a dull roar behind their clatter.
At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra, which earlier took the storm’s brunt, police said. Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead.

Director of Meteology at the UAE weather center, Mohamad Al-Ebri, told Arab News on Friday that the cyclone is expected to reach the southern coast of Oman within the next 12 hours, however it is possible that by then the cyclone catagory would have gone down to level one again.
India’s Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometers (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). It called the cyclone “extremely severe.”
Many holidaymakers fled the storm Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed. The Port of Salalah — a key gateway for the country — also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain.

James Hewitson, general manager of the five-star hotel Al-Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, told Arab News they were expecting the situation to worsen over the coming days.

“The wind has picked up since this morning.”

He said the hotel staff were preparing for the worst outcome, ensuring there was enough fuel to power the generators, should the main electricity supply be cut.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe,” Hewitson explained.

He said the hotel was well stocked for food and water and that at least one of the restaurants would remain open.

“We have about 50 guests staying with us at the moment,” Hewitson told Arab News. “Some are leaving tonight, some have chosen to leave and we are offering to compensate them with our sister hotels across Oman”

“At the end of today I expect I will have something between 40 to 50 guests staying… We have 250 staff members.” 

He explained that representatives from the Ministry of Tourism had visited in the morning.

“We have already taken down our outdoors furniture, and anything that is not bolted down has been put away so that the winds don’t blow them into anyone and hurt people like glass tables or umbrellas.” 

And he added that Muscat civil defense had sent a team to support in Salalah.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe.”

UAE not to be affected

“According to the Medium Ranged Forecast from Numerical Weather Predictions, the tropical cyclone will not reach the UAE,” the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology said in a statement.

It added that however medium and high clouds and moist air mass may lead to convective cloud formations at times in the eastern and the southern parts of the country associated with fresh winds.

 

 

(With AP)