Turkey Lifts Travel Ban on Iranian Graft-probe Suspect

Court ruling latest sign that the corruption probe which grew into one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's rule is running out of steam.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Credit: AP

A Turkish court has lifted a travel ban on an Iranian businessman who was held for two months without charge as part of a corruption investigation touching Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inner circle, Hurriyet Daily News website reported.

The decision to lift the ban on Reza Zarrab is the latest sign that the corruption probe, which emerged in December and grew into one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's 11-year rule, is running out of steam.

A police report leaked earlier this year presented Zarrab as the ringleader of a group which allegedly helped Iran to exploit a loophole in the West's sanctions regime that for a time allowed the Islamic Republic to purchase gold with oil and gas revenues.
The report alleged bribes were paid to Turkey's then economy minister, interior minister and European Union Affairs minister as well as the chief executive of state-controlled lender Halkbank.

All three ministers, who have since either resigned or been dropped from the cabinet, have denied wrongdoing and none have been charged. Halkbank has denied violating any domestic or international laws.

In a Sabah newspaper interview published in April, Zarrab said, "The trade I do is completely legal." Reuters could not reach him for comment following the release of the police documents and his attorney, Seyda Yildirim, declined to comment.

Despite the controversy, Erdogan's ruling AK Party swept to victory in local elections at the end of March seen as a referendum on his rule and prosecutors have since dismissed a smaller of two corruption cases in the affair.

Erdogan is widely expected to run in the country's first direct election for president in August.

He has cast the graft probe as an attempted "judicial coup", a plot to unseat him devoid of legal merit and orchestrated by exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally with influence in the police and judiciary.

Thousands of police officers and hundreds of members of the judiciary have been reassigned in the wake of the scandal, with several prosecutors removed from the corruption case.

Zarrab grew up in Turkey, holds citizenship, resides in a mansion on the Bosphorus and is married to Turkish pop star Ebru Gundes, who is a judge on a popular television talent show.



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