The decision to appoint two figures known for their anti-Turkey, neoconservative and pro-Israel rhetoric as experts in the case against Turkish figures for violating Iran sanctions has raised questions.
The court's decision was made in response to demands from the prosecutor's office and defense lawyers, after the parties failed to reach an agreement on 10 key issues prior to the hearing before a jury.
Despite objections from defense lawyers, Judge Richard Berman ruled for two senior executives of Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), CEO Mark Dubowitz and Senior Vice President Jonathan Schanzer, to attend the hearing as experts on Iran sanctions.
In addition to its usual stance, FDD has recently received attention for holding numerous events with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and intensifying anti-Turkey rhetoric.
Accepting the prosecution's demands, Berman also ruled not to allow FDD's donations outside of public financial sources and donors to be questioned.
Even though FDD is not obligated to acknowledge all of its donations to the public, the prosecutor's insistent approach and decision to open a separate heading on the issue drew attention.
Among the U.S. public, Dubowitz is primarily known as an adamant opponent of the Iran nuclear deal. Since the signing of the deal in 2015 Dubowitz spoke in favor of the U.S. withdrawing from the agreement both in U.S. media and Congress, suggesting regime change and military action against Tehran.
Meanwhile, Schanzer, who was invited as an expert due to his alleged knowledge of Turkey's economic relations with Iran and sanctions against the countries, recently came to prominence due to his anti-Turkey rhetoric.
Schanzer is also a leading member of the "FDD-Turkey Program," whose website features a number of articles openly targeting Turkey and its policies.
Schanzer reportedly has a close working relationship with Republican People's Party Bursa Deputy Aykan Erdemir, who in 2013 attended Gülenist Terrorist Organization's (FETÖ) Rumi Forum as a guest speaker.
Furthermore, leaked emails of United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, indicated a close relationship between him and Schanzer. In some of the leaked emails, the two discussed their joint strategy against Turkey and Qatar.
Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab was arrested in Miami last year on charges of engaging in hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities, which were barred by U.S. sanctions, while laundering the proceeds and defrauding several financial institutions by concealing the true nature of the illegal transactions.
Zarrab and Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was arrested while in the U.S. in March 2017, are scheduled to stand trial soon. If convicted, they face prison terms of up to 30 years. Turkey argues that the case has been turned into a political case against Ankara.