© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past by a branch of Halkbank in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank said on Friday that it will use all its legal rights to challenge a U.S. Federal Court ruling that it must enter a formal plea to charges that it helped Iran evade sanctions.

Halkbank said it requests the right to defend its position that the U.S. court lacks jurisdiction over claims made against the bank as Halkbank does not have any branch or physical operation in the United States.

The bank has so far declined to make a formal appearance in the case. Prosecutors have called the bank a “fugitive” and said they may seek sanctions against it if it does not appear.

“Our bank aims to solve this unfair case from the very beginning by challenging the court’s jurisdiction,” Halkbank said in a statemend.

It said it had requested a “special appearance” to challenge the U.S. judge hearing the case, saying his statements in and out of the courtroom called into question the court’s impartiality.

On Thursday, the judge ruled that Halkbank must enter a formal plea to charges that it helped Iran evade sanctions before it can challenge a U.S. court’s ability to hear the case.

Prosecutors have alleged in an indictment that Halkbank and its executives worked between 2012 and 2016 to help Iran spend revenue from oil and gas sales abroad using sham food and gold transactions, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and Turkish officials also aided in the effort, prosecutors said.

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2019-12-06