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Atilla sentenced to 32 months in U.S. prison over evading Iran sanctions

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in U.S. prison over evading Iran sanctions

With ties between the United States and Turkey strained, and today's sentencing likely to compound this, expect Moscow to deepen the rift by seeking closer engagement with Ankara.

A federal judge sentenced a Turkish banker to 32 months in prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to help Iran avoid USA sanctions, the Justice Department announced.

Prosecutors identified Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab as the central figure in the scheme.

One of Atilla's lawyers, Victor Rocco, called the 32-month sentence "fair", but said the banker would appeal his conviction.

The time he spent behind bars will be deducted from the total sentence, meaning he will be free after 18 months. The bank has previously said that all of its transactions have been lawful.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of about 20 years for Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen.

Judge Richard Berman handed down the sentence of 32 months in a Manhattan court Wednesday.

"What we need to show the world in proceedings such as this, especially today, especially now, is that we Americans aren't bullies", he said.

"Apart from my family, I have no other priorities", the statement said.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, was convicted by a NY jury on January 3 on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defense.

The ministry accused the US court of taking false evidence and statements fabricated by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülensit terror Group (FETÖ) accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, and said Atilla had been sentenced despite being innocent.

The case has strained relations between Washington and Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman in April calling it "a grave injustice".

The 32-month sentence for Halkbank's Mehmet Hakan Atilla by the District Court for the Southern District of NY was "inconsistent with the principle of a fair trial", said Turkey's Foreign Ministry in a statement.

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