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On the Unsettling Realities of the Hakan Atilla Case

Hakan Atilla, the former deputy director-general at the Turkish state-owned Halkbank, returned home.

Atilla, who served 28 months in the United States, was accused of violating US sanctions on Iran.

However, examining the irregularities in the U.S. v. Atilla case and the questionable backgrounds of people involved with it gives the impression of Hakan Atilla’s arrest and his subsequent imprisonment being politically motivated. The mistreatment Atilla had to endure essentially unfolded as the continuation of a 2016 case that took place in the United States.

In March 2016, U.S. officials arrested Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab with similar charges. Then, they went on to tie Hakan Atilla into the Zarrab case due to the transactions conducted by Halkbank, where he was an executive at. Zarrab’s arrest dates back to a 2013 “corruption” investigation in Turkey. The investigation took place between December 17 and 25, and is often referred to as “December 17-25” in short.

The operation was organized in secrecy by Gulenist officers, prosecutors, and judges, who are known for decades-long infiltration of public institutions and abusing their power. For this reason, the Turkish people interpreted this operation as a “judicial coup” orchestrated by the Gulenists, and went on to support the ruling AK Party in the upcoming 2014 local elections, lending them the win by 45% of the vote. In the same year, Erdogan won Turkey’s first direct presidential election, garnering 52% of the vote for outright victory.

The members of the Gulen organization, which would later be declared a terrorist organization dubbed FETO, started to flee abroad as they couldn’t get what they wanted with the operation. The Zarrab-Atilla case was carried out with stolen documents these Gulenist fugitives handed over to the United States.

Hüseyin Korkmaz is the most prominent of the Gulenist fugitive officers who smuggled documents for the United States. In 2014, Korkmaz was arrested in Turkey, only to flee abroad in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt. The Gulenist fugitive said he received 50 thousand dollars from the FBI for his “assistance” and was provided further help with house rents by the New York prosecutors’ office.

Among those involved with the case, former Prosecutor Preet Bharara and Judge Richard Berman also have close ties with Gulenists. Bharara frequently shares coverage from Gulenist media outlets on his personal social media accounts. He served as the chief counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer for 4 years. Schumer is known for recommending Bharara to the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Senator Schumer also has links with the law office FETO reportedly pays 2.5 million dollars a year.

Judge Richard Berman moderated a panel discussion at a Gulenist symposium in Istanbul. At the symposium that took place 5 months after the December 17-25 operation, the Gulenist judge targeted President Erdogan, criticizing the detention of prosecutors and officers.

Cuneyt Yuksel and Murat Karkın fled abroad after the July 15 coup attempt; they were the founding partners of the YKK Attorney Partnership, the Turkish law firm that covered all travel expenses of Berman.

Yet, the oddities in the case aren’t even limited to these.

Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer, two executives at the neoconservative pro-Israel think thank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), served as expert witnesses for the U.S. v. Atilla case.

The 2017 leaked emails of Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States, showed that he intended to bring FDD analysts over to the UAE and proved he had strong connections with the think thank.

Yet another point of interest is Reza Zarrab’s claim of having to lie in order to get out of jail. Among evidence provided by Hakan Atilla’s lawyers, there was the summary of a jailhouse call between Zarrab and an unidentified man, in which the man says:

“You need to admit to crimes you haven’t committed to get out of jail or to get a reduced sentence.”

Zarrab would later testify against Atilla, accusing him wrongfully.

In conclusion, the second stage of the devious plot was displayed in the U.S., orchestrated by the members of a terrorist organization that infiltrated Turkey.

Subsequently, Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found "guilty" by judges and prosecutors with concrete FETO ties and served 28 months in jail.