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.


UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

Khalifa Haftar. (Supplied)
Updated 52 min 6 sec ago
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UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

  • Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar
  • Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees

TRIPOLI: The UN has called on Libya’s internationally recognized government to crack down on armed groups obstructing the work of state institutions in the chaos-wracked country.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) late on Sunday night expressed its “strong condemnation of the violence, intimidation and obstruction to the work of Libya’s sovereign institutions by militiamen.”
It called on the UN-backed Government of National Accord to “prosecute those responsible for these criminal actions.”
The GNA’s military and security institutions have failed to place limits on the powerful militias that sprung up in the turmoil that followed the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Several state institutions, including those in Tripoli, have been regular targets of harassment and intimidation by armed groups technically operating under the GNA’s Interior Ministry.
Members of militias “nominally acting under the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord are attacking sovereign institutions and preventing them from being able to operate effectively,” UNSMIL said.
Last week, the GNA’s National Oil Corp. said men from the Interior Ministry had forced their way into the headquarters of Brega Petroleum Marketing Company — a distribution outfit — to “arrest” its chief.
The Libyan Investment Authority, the GNA-managed sovereign wealth fund, recently moved from its downtown Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees.
UNSMIL said it would work with the international community and the GNA to “investigate the possibility of bringing sanctions against those interfering with or threatening the operations of any sovereign institution.”
Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A myriad of militias,terrorist groups and people traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in the North African country.