- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - A lawyer for a prominent Turkish businessman said Wednesday that U.S. charges that his client dealt illegally with Iran are “very defensible.”

Attorney Benjamin Brafman spoke to reporters after entering a not-guilty plea on behalf of Reza Zarrab at his first appearance in Manhattan federal court.

Zarrab, 33, a resident of Turkey, has been held without bail since his March 19 arrest in Miami. He is well-known in Turkey, in part because he’s married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes. In 2013, Zarrab was arrested in a Turkish government corruption case. He maintained his innocence, and the charges were dropped.

In the U.S., Zarrab and two others are charged with conspiring to process hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran’s government in violation of U.S. and international sanctions.

Prosecutors say the conspirators used a network of companies in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere to launder the proceeds and defraud several financial institutions, including U.S. banks, by concealing the true nature of the financial moves. Zarrab’s co-defendants remain at large.

Brafman told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman that he expects to seek bail for his client in the next six weeks while a prosecutor said evidence includes thousands of pages of bank, email and phone records.

“We believe the charges are very defensible and we are hopeful and confident we’ll be able to convince the court to grant bail when we offer a very significant bail package,” the lawyer said outside court.

The criminal case has boosted U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s Twitter following to 300,000 from the several thousand he had before.

Bharara sat in the back of the courtroom and observed Wednesday arraignment.

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