By Katie Zavadski
New YORK (Daily Beast) — Jury members for a high-profile trial relating to Turkey’s evasion of US sanctions on Iran will not be named in court, a federal judge suggested on November 21.
Judge Richard Berman took the unusual step of suggesting concealing jurors’ identities after noting that individuals involved in the case have been contacted by “third parties” seeking to interfere with the trial of accused Turkish sanctions violators.
“I guess it’s hearsay for sure, but I’ve heard of people involved in this case being approached inappropriately by third parties. And that even includes court interpreters,” Berman said, implying that the individuals represented Turkish government interests. He added that he will refer such behavior “to the appropriate authorities” if it continues.
At issue is a case whose tentacles reach to the very highest levels of the US and Turkish presidential administrations. Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is accused of orchestrating a scheme that would allow Turkey to buy Iranian gas in violation of US sanctions. Prosecutors say Zarrab co-defendant, Mehmet Atilla, worked at a Turkish state-owned bank and helped conceal those plans. They are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and violating US sanctions.
Before the trial was set to begin next week, the case took an unusual turn. Zarrab’s attorneys have stopped public filings in the case, and Atilla’s lawyers have indicated they believe Zarrab is no longer a defendant. As The Daily Beast reported last week, there are some indications that Zarrab is potentially cooperating with another criminal investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who allegedly discussed a $15 million plot to free Zarrab and kidnap an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, for the Turkish government.