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At the center of the increasingly bitter dispute between the U.S. and Turkey is a demand by an irate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that American prosecutors free a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer who's about to go on trial on money-laundering and fraud charges.Turkey alarmed Washington by arresting a U.S. consular official this week, in what some U.S. officials feared was an attempt to gain leverage for Zarrab's release before the scheduled Nov. 27 start of his trial in New York.Erdogan's campaign to free Zarrab has been extraordinary. He demanded his release as well as the firing of Bharara in a private meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 21, 2016, in which U.S. officials say half the 90-minute conversation was devoted to Zarrab. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag visited then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch in October to argue that the case was "based on no evidence," and that Zarrab should be released.Erdogan blames Gulen's followers for gathering and leaking the 2013 evidence about Zarrab, which Turkish media reports say included allegations against Erdogan's family. When Erdogan met with Biden a year ago, he claimed bizarrely that Bharara was a Gulenist tool, according to a former official.
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