Turkish banker says U.S. prosecutors withheld evidence

NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Lawyers for a banker at Turkey's

state-owned Halkbank who is charged with scheming to

violate U.S. sanctions against Iran accused U.S. prosecutors of withholding evidence that might help exculpate their client. They said this included gold trader Reza Zarrab's alleged willingness to lie in exchange for leniency. In a letter on Monday to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan, lawyers for Mehmet Hakan Atilla said prosecutors on Saturday evening turned over important materials to them that the judge ordered be turned over on Nov. 28, and that such a delay makes it harder for the defense to prepare. The lawyers said these materials included a summary of a Sept. 15, 2016 call when Zarrab, then held in a U.S. jail, discussed with an individual named Ahad the perceived need when incarcerated in the United States to lie "in order to get out or to get a reduced sentence," and "admit to something you haven't committed" to get out of prison. Ahad's identity could not immediately be determined from court records. "Zarrab is proclaiming his willingness to fabricate testimony out of whole cloth in order to obtain a reduced sentence," Atilla's lawyers wrote in the letter. "The belated production of these statements not only violates this court's November 28 order, but also significantly impairs the ability of the defense to properly and effectively utilize them at trial." "Mr. Zarrab understands his obligation to provide fully truthful testimony," Robert Anello, a lawyer for Zarrab, said in an email. A spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan, whose office is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. Prosecutors were in court on Monday, where Zarrab is testifying for a fourth day. Zarrab has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Atilla has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have alleged that nine defendants took part in a scheme from 2010 to 2015 that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food to give Iran access to international markets, violating U.S. sanctions. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities. In Monday's letter, Atilla's lawyers also renewed arguments that they have not had enough time to review materials turned over by prosecutors, making it harder for their client to get a fair trial.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley)