During a keynote speech at the New York Press Association Spring Convention on Friday, Attorney Preet Bharara commented on how he suddenly became a public figure in Turkey reaching almost three hundred thousand followers in Twitter.
Furthermore, he responded the pro-Erdogan media in Turkey which started a smear campaign against him after the arrest of Reza Zarrab,33, in Miami, who allegedly is involved in money laundering and banking fraud to evade sanctions against Iran.
No American attorney has ever been as popular as Mr. Preet Bharara in Turkey before.
He is known as a 'Crusader prosecutor' for his prosecution of diplomats, people in other countries, Wall Street executives, politicians in the U.S.
A few days ago his office started a massive corruption probe that has targeted Mayor de Blasio's fund-raising activities.
But the reason he has been so popular in Turkey is the arrest of an Turkish-Iranian businessman, Reza Zarrab, who was also arrested in Turkey on December 17, 2013 as part of a biggest corruption scandal in history of Turkey.
While the prosecution of Reza Zarrab in the U.S is limited to money laundering, banking fraud and evading the sanctions against Iran, the corruption probe in Turkey extended to bribing the bank officials and ministers of Erdogan government through Turkey's gold-for-gas trade with Iran which evaded the American sanctions. The total amount of bribes and commissions in Turkey is estimated as $14 billion. Since Erdogan's government was struck by the biggest corruption scandal in its history, almost 3000 thousands police officers were removed from their posts. Since the corruption inquiry has targeted three cabinet members of Erdogan government, Turkey's then PM Erdogan accused the police and judiciary of a "dirty plot" to undermine his administration. The prosecutors who were involved in the corruption probe fled Turkey after the removal from their posts for security reasons.
Erdogan consolidated his power by seizing the veto players in Turkish political system including the Judiciary. As a result of this abuse of state power, Turkish people lost their hope for justice in Turkey and started to see Mr.Bharara as a heroic figure who could distribute justice.
"On the date we engaged in the arrest, on the day that Mr. Zarrab was arrested in Florida, I had 8,100 Twitter followers. Within 4 days, I had gained 270,000 Twitter followers, virtually all of them from the nation of Turkey. And part of the reason for that was, as has been widely reported, there's a feeling that corruption is not being dealt with in that country. I'm not going to make any comment on that, but that's a feeling of what was going. And the other reason that it's been widely reported is that people have not believed that there was a free press there and so there's a lot more of people taking to the freedom of social media," the attorney said.
"I apparently- and it's hard because I don't understand Turkish very well yet- I've been featured in the cover of newspapers in Turkey with the suggestion that the reason I have brought the case- Preet Bharara from Punjab-India, grew up in New Jersey, US Attorney in Manhattan- ..because I have been bribed by pro-Turkish-government figures who hoped to overthrow the government in Turkey, to the tune of $2.5 million. So there have been a lot of silly things written about me in my time as US Attorney. I can confirm for all of you that, that's the silliest," he said.'
It is no secret that media has been an important tool for Erdogan to consolidate his power. By seizing almost 70 percent of the Turkish media by misusing the state power, he seized the Turkish media and turned them into his own propaganda machine.
The leading newspapers of Erdogan's propaganda machine started a smear campaign against Attorney Bharara claiming even that he was bribed by people who are eager to over throw Erdogan rule in Turkey.
"I've been featured in the cover of newspapers in Turkey with the suggestion that the reason I have brought the case- Preet Bharara from Punjab-India, grew up in New Jersey, US Attorney in Manhattan- ..because I have been bribed by pro-Turkish-government figures who hoped to overthrow the government in Turkey, to the tune of $2.5 million. So there have been a lot of silly things written about me in my time as US Attorney. I can confirm for all of you that, that's the silliest," he said.
Attorney Bharara also commented on the press freedom issues in Turkey.
"The other reason widely reported is that, people have not believed there is a free press in Turkey, so there is a lot more people taking to the freedom of social media. In 2015, Freedom House write the press in Turkey as "not free". The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that at least 13 journalists are in jail for their coverage and described a crackdown that includes self censorship and harassment of media business owners".
He also said "According to Reuters, Turkish President Erdogan has personally brought more than 1800 criminal suits against individuals, including journalists and children, for insulting him since becoming president in 2014". Can Attorney Preet Bharara's case cause some serious political consequences for President Erdogan of Turkey?
Some believe that it is possible.
It is obvious that an Iranian Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab was not alone evading the U.S sanctions against Iran. If Reza Zarrab would cooperate with Attorney Bharara and share his big partners in Turkey it would definitely have political consequences for Turkey.
In the conclusion remarks of Attorney's speech, he gave slight messages that he would pursue the case wherever it goes and whatever it takes.
'We believe that no one's above the law. We don't care how much money you have, we don't care how powerful you are. We don't care how strong you are, we don't care what your connections are.
If you've broken the law, and it's to the interest of justice to pursue an investigation and prosecution and we can prove it, then we're going to do that.
And that's what makes me proud to be a US Attorney as a representative of my office and the Justice Department, and proud of the American system of justice.
And the only thing I can offer to anybody, whether you're in Turkey or America or Albany or Schenectady or New York City or anywhere, is that we do our jobs without being intimidated by anyone or scared of anyone...only according to the law and facts because that's what our oaths require.' he said.