Erdogan slams 'political' US charges against ex-minister


Mehmet Zafer Caglayan is accused of carrying out millions of dollars in transactions in violation of US sanctions against Iran

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 8 September 2017 14:50 UTC

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back Friday at what he said were "political" US charges against a former economy minister accused of violating US sanctions on Iran.

Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, 59, along with eight Turks and one Iranian, is accused of carrying out hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions in violation of US sanctions designed to deny Iran access to the US financial system.

"I say clearly, I see this step taken against our former economy minister as a step taken against the Turkish republic," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

"These steps are purely political."

He said he hoped to have the opportunity to discuss the case when he visits New York for the UN General Assembly on 18 September.

"The United States needs to revise this decision. There are a lot of very bad smells coming from this business," Erdogan added.

He said that Turkey had previously said it would not apply sanctions against Iran.

Only two of the nine charged this week have been arrested over the offences alleged to have taken place from 2010 to 2015.

Caglayan, who remains at large, and three other defendants who were executives of state owned Turkish Bank-1, are accused of  laundered money linked to Iran in return for millions of dollars in bribes, a statement from the US Attorney's office in New York's southern district said.

Turkey-US relations have been strained since the final months of the former president Barack Obama's administration over support for Syrian Kurdish militia Turkey views as "terrorists," but Ankara hoped for better ties under Donald Trump.

However, there has been no progress on Turkey's aim to extradite Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of ordering the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan. 

Gulen denies any link to the attempted putsch.

Tensions mounted after the US Justice Department last month charged Turkish security officials with assaulting protesters during a White House visit in May.

Erdogan said the incident highlighted "bad smells" as he claimed the indictment contained the names of individuals who were not even in the United States at the time.

"You might be a large nation, but being a just state is a different thing. To be a just state, the legal system must act fairly," he said.