Duvar English

Turkish prosecutors have prepared an indictment against Burhan Kuzu, a former deputy and one of the founding members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), over the release of Iranian drug lord Naji Sharifi Zindashti from jail in Turkey.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is seeking up to five years in jail for Kuzu on charges of pressuring the judiciary in order for Zindashti to be released, daily Sözcü reported on April 10.

The investigation into Kuzu was launched in February after the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) sent a document regarding the allegations of pressure to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Zindashti was first arrested in 2007 in Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece district in possession of 75 kilograms of heroin and later convicted. He was released in August 2010.

Zindashti was held again in April 2018 on suspicion of several murders, instigating murder and membership in the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

He was released six months later, with the court stating that there was no evidence tying him to murders.

A prosecutor’s office objected to Zindashti’s release and an arrest warrant was issued, but the drug lord was gone by then.

The recently prepared indictment also included Kuzu’s testimony. The former AKP deputy had initially denied having ever met Zindashti, but after a photo of him together with the drug lord emerged, he told prosecutors that he first met with Zindashti through an acquaintance at a restaurant in 2011. He said that Zindashti had introduced himself as a businessman and that he found about him being a prominent Iranian mobster through the media.

Kuzu also denied having pressured judge Cevdet Özcan to free Zindashti, saying as a constitutional law professor, he has always defending the freedom of the judiciary.  

The former AKP deputy said that Zindashti’s lawyer was a former student of his and he received a visit from him in 2018. The lawyer told Kuzu that there was no evidence tying Zindashti to the crimes in question and asked him about his legal opinion regarding the case.

Kuzu said that it is a common practice for lawyers to receive legal opinions from different parties, especially academics, and put these opinions in the case file. “And within this framework, I have called Istanbul 5th Court of Peace Judge Cevdet Özcan and conveyed to him that no evidence was allegedly found against Zindashti,” Kuzu said.

“However, I have not presented my opinion regarding the continuation of his [Zindashti] arrest or his release,” Kuzu said.

The indictment said Kuzu had “persistently” called judge Özcan for Zindashti to be released and suggested to him that the Iranian drug lord should stand trial without arrest.