Reza Zarrab, the star prosecution witness in the trial of a Turkish banker charged with violating United States sanctions on Iran, has been sued by an inmate who claims Mr. Zarrab sexually assaulted him when the men shared a cell in a Manhattan jail.
The suit was filed Wednesday evening, after Mr. Zarrab completed his sixth day of testimony in the trial. Prosecutors revealed last week that Mr. Zarrab secretly pleaded guilty on Oct. 26 to the sanctions violations, as well to bribing a jail guard to obtain contraband like alcohol and to use the guard’s cellphone.
The sexual assault allegations in the lawsuit are unrelated to the jail guard bribery count, and have not surfaced in the trial, either in Mr. Zarrab’s testimony or in statements by prosecutors or defense lawyers.
Robert J. Anello, a lawyer for Mr. Zarrab, said Thursday, “The allegations are outrageous and false from a source that is not remotely credible.”
The inmate’s lawyer, Alexei Schacht, said an inquiry by the jail had found the complaint to be unsubstantiated, but said this meant only that officials there had concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish whether the assault had occurred. A spokesman for the jail did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit says the abuse, which included rape, occurred between November 2016 and March 2017, when the men were cellmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan.
The inmate, who is not being identified because he is an alleged sexual assault victim, claims that he and Mr. Zarrab became friends in the jail and that Mr. Zarrab offered to pay for him to retain a private lawyer. He had been represented by a public defender. Mr. Zarrab also had money wired to the inmate’s family in Africa and placed in the inmate’s commissary account, the lawsuit said.
The inmate, who is in his early 60s, “felt helpless and unable to fight off the younger and stronger” man, the suit says, adding that the inmate was also “too scared and embarrassed at that time to complain or to seek help.”
On March 8, the suit says, after the inmate again was attacked by Mr. Zarrab and began yelling and making noise, other inmates apparently complained to the jail, as did the inmate himself.
“Being in jail is a bad enough experience for someone,” said Mr. Schacht, the inmate’s lawyer, “and this just made his experience so much worse.”
The inmate pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiring to provide material support for a terrorist group and is awaiting sentencing in federal court.
Mr. Schacht, asked why he had filed the suit the week Mr. Zarrab was testifying in the sanctions case, said the timing was coincidental and largely a factor of his being retained recently to represent the inmate and of conducting his own investigation.
A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment.