The judge in the Turkish banker Hakan Atilla trial in New York dodged a direct question about whether or not he was ever hosted by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) in Turkey 2014.
In an email exchange, an Anadolu Agency reporter on Friday, asked Judge Richard Berman about his possible affiliation with FETÖ and his presence at a symposium in Istanbul which was sponsored by a FETÖ linked Yuksel Karkin Kucuk (YKK) law firm in 2014.
Berman was also asked about documents which confirmed that his trip to Turkey was paid for by FETÖ, including all of his transportation and hotel fees. His press office however, responded to all questions by sending Berman's previous statement from 2016.
Confirming that the FETÖ linked law firm "helped to organize the symposium and paid the participants' travel and lodging expenses", the statement said when the court accepted an invitation to participate in the Symposium, YKK was "one of the preeminent (and largest) law firms" in Istanbul.
At the symposium, Berman targeted the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and claimed that Turkey is governed by a "one-man rule," suggesting that the current government must be changed -- ideas consistently propagated by FETÖ supporters.
He had also criticized the dismissal of FETÖ-linked judges, prosecutors and police officers over the unlawful wiretapping charges.
Atilla was arrested in the U.S. earlier this year for allegedly violating American sanctions against Iran and found guilty of five charges related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.The government’s case hinged on the testimony of Reza Zarrab who was arrested in the U.S. in 2016 on similar charges.The Turkish businessman pleaded guilty on the charges just prior to the start of the trial and testified for the prosecutors against Atilla.The case has driven a further wedge between Washington and Ankara that already had strained relations.
The Turkish government has criticized the trial because of Judge Berman's proven links with FETÖ as well as the weak and illegally-obtained evidence, which were propelled by the prosecution regarding the alleged violation of the Iran sanctions.
Berman claimed his visit would not overshadow his neutrality in the case. However, he allowed well-known FETÖ fugitives as witnesses to determine the fate of Atilla.
Prosecutors questioned Atilla based on a report prepared by a fugitive member of FETÖ, Osman Zeki Canitez, in an attempt to strengthen the government’s case.
Berman acknowledged the report even though the disgraced former police official admitted in court he stole documents related to an investigation and the 2013 roundup of scores of FETÖ suspects in Turkey.
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen are accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016, failed coup that was beat back in Turkey but left 250 martyrs and nearly 2,200 injured.The defense also appealed for a mistrial based on testimony from another FETÖ fugitive, Huseyin Korkmaz, who they said “submitted stolen evidence” and “testified wrongly”.The disgraced former police official admitted in court he had stolen documents related to an investigation and roundup of scores of FETÖ suspects in Turkey in late 2013.