A Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions deserves a lenient sentence because he at most had a small role “in someone else’s mammoth plot,” his lawyers said.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, who is facing sentencing on April 11, made the appeal to a New York federal court judge through his lawyers in papers filed late Monday.
The attorneys said a calculation by court employees that federal sentencing guidelines call for a life sentence is “draconian” and “stupefyingly unreasonable and unjust.”
The lawyers said their own calculations showed guidelines should estimate a sentence of no more than four to five years in prison and that a proper penalty should be substantially less because of a variety of factors, including Atilla’s minor role.
The lawyers wrote that Atilla’s only connection to the United States was rare business trips on behalf of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, where he worked as deputy general manager.
Beginning in 2011, prosecutors said he conspired with Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla at a trial where testimony about top Turkish officials strained relations between Turkey and the U.S.
Atilla’s lawyers said evidence showed he was, “at most, a functionary in someone else’s mammoth plot to circumvent American economic sanctions aimed at Iran — a plot that was motivated by the greed of its mastermind, architect and principal beneficiary, Reza Zarrab, as well as others, who, along with Zarrab, realized huge financial gains.”
Prosecutors have not yet filed their sentencing recommendations.
Atilla was convicted in January of multiple conspiracy charges and bank fraud. He has remained held without bail since his March 2017 arrest.
His lawyers said the alleged crimes were “an aberration in an otherwise honest, law-abiding and honorable life and career, lived entirely in Turkey.”
They added that his incarceration has had a “profound and devastating” effect on his family. They said he has remained a model prisoner even though his wife has been able to come to the U.S. only twice and his son only once.