Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Turkey's president says NY trial is USA conspiracy

Turkey's president says NY trial is USA conspiracy

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testifying for US prosecutors in a criminal trial involving sanctions against Iran said on Thursday that he was removed from a NY federal jail after another inmate threatened to kill him for cooperating with authorities.

Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors in the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's Halkbank charged with violating USA sanctions on Iran, has been accused of raping his cellmate in a Manhattan prison.

Zarrab, 34, ingratiated himself with Jaber, 62, of the Ivory Coast, before beginning his assaults, the suit says.

"The allegations are outrageous and false from a source that is not remotely credible", Zarrab's lawyer, Robert Anello, said in an email. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reza Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with US prosecutors in the case, also said he had complained about Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla to Atilla's former superior on multiple occasions. After spending more than a year in a federal prison, Zarrab recently agreed to plead guilty and testify against Atilla, a deputy general manager at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, in exchange for leniency.

In Zarrab's fifth day on the witness stand, he was subjected to cross-examination from attorney Cathy Fleming, who elicited confessions from Zarrab about his proclivity to use bribes to get what he wants, even after he was jailed in the United States. There's been no mention of the rape allegation in court.

A trial playing out in NY is being watched carefully in Turkey.

Zarrab testified that he never paid Atilla a bribe and that Atilla never asked him for money.

The inmate pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiring to provide material support for a terrorist group and is awaiting sentencing in federal court.

After that, Zarrab "started telling plaintiff that he likes having sex with both men and women" and "started masturbating in front of plaintiff", the lawsuit claimed. He said Zarrab bragged that he was rich and could hire a private lawyer for Jaber to help him win his criminal case.

The inmate, who is in his early 60s, "felt helpless and unable to fight off the younger and stronger" man, the suit says, adding that the inmate was also "too scared and embarrassed at that time to complain or to seek help".

Their small cell "became a kind of a torture chamber" where Zarrab allegedly shoved a cucumber into Jaber's anus in March, causing him to bleed from his rectum. The sexual assaults continued, until the other inmate eventually "had the courage" to complain to staff and Zarrab was moved to another unit, the complaint says.

In September 2016, Zarrab hired a lawyer for Jaber and arranged to have him moved into the same cell, the suit said.

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