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Second defendant in Mugabe lobbying case turns himself in

Updated: September 17, 2013 8:17AM

A South Side man accused of illegally lobbying for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe vowed to clear his name Thursday after he flew from Israel to turn himself in to U.S. authorities.

Sharp-dresser Greg Turner, 71, told reporters he was “absolutely not” guilty of violating sanctions by attempting to open up a “back channel” for Mugabe to President Barack Obama through four Chicago area lawmakers.

Turner, who turned himself in at O’Hare Airport on Thursday afternoon and was released on bond, had been wanted since last month, when prosecutors accused him and co-defendant Prince Asiel Ben Israel of illegally representing Mugabe’s regime in return for a promise of $3.4 million.

But his attorney, Jim Tunick, said that Turner’s decision to turn himself in as soon as he could rather than fight extradition from Israel was evidence of his innocence.

Turner — who wore a tailored chalk-stripe suit, alligator-skin brogues and socks with a motif from the video game Tetris during a brief appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon — “voluntarily traveled 18,000 mile to clear his good name that he’s developed over 71 years,” Tunick said.

Turner added that he had merely been doing what he’d done for 30 years: standing up with other members of the Pan-African movement to improve the lives of Africans.

Though prosecutors haven’t identified the elected officials whom Turner and Ben Israel allegedly approached in an attempt to help lift sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies, court papers make it clear that U.S. Representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush were targeted.

Court papers also appear to suggest that state Sen. Donne Trotter had dealings with Turner and Ben Israel, who was previously arrested and is free on bond. None of the politicians is accused of any wrongdoing.

Sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle were enacted by President George W. Bush in an attempt to rein in the fraud, violence, intimidation and vote-rigging that Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have increasingly relied upon.

Obama — whose staff alerted the FBI to Turner and Ben Israel’s alleged plot in 2008 — has renewed the sanctions several times.


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