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.


On both sides, residents prepare for worst

Palestinians survey a destroyed residential building hit by Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP)
Updated 47 min ago
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On both sides, residents prepare for worst

  • In Gaza, a number of buildings destroyed in the last war with Israel in 2014 still have not been rebuilt
  • The streets of Gaza City, usually bustling and noisy, were deserted on Tuesday morning

GAZA: Israeli strikes kept Palestinians in Gaza on edge throughout the night over whether another devastating war was beginning, while tens of thousands of Israelis took refuge in shelters as rockets rained down.
“What happened was like an earthquake,” said Abu Ayman Lemzeni, who lives near Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV building in Gaza City destroyed by an Israeli strike.
“As you see, here there is no more the grocery, the pharmacy, the office, the wall, the building.”
“The children are afraid. They are terrorized,” said Gaza resident Jamal Murtaja. “We could not sleep last night or this morning.”
Many had only a short time to flee their homes and found themselves in the street due to a lack of secure shelters. “As soon as we saw the missiles, we ran outside the house,” said Mohammed Aboud, who lives near the former Al-Amal Hotel building.
“We are civilians. We don’t have guns or rockets.”
Just 20 km away, on the other side of Israel’s heavily guarded security fence, the more than 128,000 residents of the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon spent the night under rocket fire. “The girls are traumatized. It’s not possible,” said father of three Meir Edery.
Edery and his family took refuge in a shelter. A police spokesman said Israelis in Ashkelon have little more than 30 seconds to reach a secure location once an alert sounds.
“We are demanding that the government give us the ability to raise our children securely,” Edery said. “It’s our most basic right.”
Behind him, neighbors called out “destroy Hamas,” the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom Israel has fought three wars since 2008.
Along the city’s port, nearly all stores had their shutters closed.
Under the azure blue sky, Nissim Arzoane, 65, came to cast his fishing line in the sea, as he does each day.
“We have to show them that we are not afraid,” he said.
Israeli authorities ordered the closure of schools and kindergartens, and many streets were deserted. Betty Calvo, 63, could not sleep at all the previous night.
In Gaza, a number of buildings destroyed in the last war with Israel in 2014 still have not been rebuilt.
The streets of Gaza City, usually bustling and noisy, were deserted on Tuesday morning.
“We have not forgotten the last war in 2014,” said Mohamed Bulbul, who lives in the southern sector of the city.
“People are tired of wars. That’s enough.”