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Turkey links US judge in case of sanctions to wanted cleric

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Wednesday that the US judge had participated in events organized by a cleric who blamed Ankara for the failed military coup last year.

"The problem has gone beyond a legal case, it has become a political case," said spokesman Ibrahim Kalin in reference to the trial in New York of a deputy general manager of the bank, accused of helping Iran to evade the sanctions of the United States. .

The executive pleaded not guilty and Halkbank says he has complied with Turkish and international laws.

The Erdogan government has described the case as a "plot against Turkey" by the US-based clergy network. UU Fethullah Gulen, who, he alleges, planned the coup attempt last year.

"It is known that the judge has participated in events at the invitation of Gulen," Kalin told a news conference, without giving details. Turkish newspapers have said that Judge Richard Berman attended a legal symposium in Istanbul in 2014 organized by Gulen supporters.

Berman could not be reached for comment. At the first hearing in the case, he said he was one of the five legal experts from the United States. UU He spoke at the symposium and moderated a panel discussion on the independent and effective judiciary.

In response to Turkey's previous criticism, the United States has said that its judicial processes are independent.

The already tight ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have deteriorated further in the court case, in which Turkish-Iranian gold merchant Reza Zarrab, who cooperates with US prosecutors, has detailed a plan to evade US sanctions UU

Zarrab has implicated the leading Turkish politicians, including Erdogan. Zarrab said on Thursday that when Erdogan was prime minister he had authorized a transaction to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Although he has not yet responded to the lawsuits, Erdogan has dismissed the case as an attempt at political motivation, led by Gulen, to overthrow the Turkish government.

"We will continue to observe within the framework of the law, but the public is seeing how this is trying to be used as an instrument of blackmail," Kalin said.

"We have not done anything in violation of international laws, we carry out our activities transparently," Kalin said.

Turkey has repeatedly called for the extradition of Gulen, but US officials have said the courts require sufficient evidence before they can extradite the elderly cleric, who has denied any involvement in the coup.

Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Report by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Written by Dominic Evans; Edition by Andrew Heavens

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