In a case that strained relations between the United States and Turkey, a judge sentenced a Turkish banker on Wednesday to just over two and a half years in prison, ignoring recommendations that he spend decades behind bars for his role in helping Iran evade USA economic sanctions.
But on January 3, Atilla was found guilty by a jury on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.
Prosecutors had argued Mr. Atilla, who worked at Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, helped the Iranian government illegally access billions of dollars of assets that had been frozen by the U.S.
He offered a detailed assessment for why reached such a verdict against the banker who stood at the trial as the only defendant while other key figures such as former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Halkbank's former CEO Suleyman Aslan, were absent. He was acquitted on one count of money laundering.
On Wednesday, Judge Berman said he intends to impose a sentence of 32 months of incarceration with credit for the time already served. United States prosecutors had wanted him put away for 20 years. Atilla was arrested months later on a trip to the U.S.
Prosecutors have said that beginning around 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating US sanctions. The defense, in contrary, expected between 46 and 57 months.
"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism", Lockard said.
The judge said there will be no supervised release and Atilla would be able to go back to his country after completing his sentence. Last December, Ankara agreed to purchase advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia-highly unusual for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country.
In a 75-page petition to the court, Atilla's lawyers asked the judge for a "fair and merciful" sentence of between four to five years, more than the under-three-year sentence given Wednesday.
Berman also said Atilla "appears to have led an exemplary life in Turkey", pointing to more than a hundred letters he received from Atilla's family and friends in his support.
Today's sentencing will further fracture the already shaky US-Turkey relationship.
Cathy Fleming, another of Atilla's lawyers, read a brief statement by her client, translated from Turkish, asking for Berman's "understanding of the situation that I and my family are in". "I ask you to understand the position I and my family are in", he said.
Zarrab hired a platoon of high-priced lawyers including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to try to work out a deal between Erdogan, who was anxious to avoid the embarrassment of a trial, and the Trump administration.
Turkish government officials vilified the participants in the USA court proceedings, with the state news media labeling Berman, prosecutors and even reporters pawns in an elaborate conspiracy by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally turned state enemy.