Iran-Sanctions Trial to Open After Jury Selected in New York

Updated on
  • Mehmet Atilla is accused of aiding in laundering funds
  • Zarrab won’t be on trial, but will he testify for prosecutors?

The Risks of Breaking the Iran Nuclear Deal

The trial of a Turkish banker charged with helping Iran evade economic sanctions is set to begin Tuesday after a jury was selected in New York.

The banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, will be the only defendant on trial, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman told jurors in court on Monday. That still leaves unanswered whether the main defendant, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, has struck a deal with the U.S. and will testify against Atilla. Zarrab is accused of orchestrating the scheme.

Zarrab hasn’t participated in the case since September. He was released from a U.S. jail earlier this month but is said to remain in U.S. custody. 

Atilla is accused of fraud, sanctions violations and conspiracy to launder money. He has pleaded not guilty. He’s one of nine people to have been charged, including senior Turkish government officials and banking executives, but only Zarrab and Atilla have been in U.S. custody. They allegedly helped Iran transact business in dollars and access the global financial system at a time when the U.S. was ratcheting up sanctions on the country as punishment for its effort to build a nuclear bomb.

The jury includes 12 members and six alternates. Their identities are being shielded from the public, with the judge referring to them in court by a number.

After jury selection was finished, Atilla’s lawyers requested a two-week postponement, complaining about heavy redactions in documents turned over to them by U.S. prosecutors.

In a letter late Monday, the defense lawyers said they’ve been inundated with evidence turned over by the government at the 11th hour. They also said they’d just learned that an under-secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department in May 2013 gave public testimony in Congress that helps clear Atilla of wrongdoing.

Berman, who has repeatedly signaled his desire to begin trial, said he would rule on the request Tuesday morning.

The case is U.S. v Zarrab, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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