Turkish judges testifying to prosecutors have confirmed that a senior from the ruling AK Party had intervened in the judicial process during which an Iranian drug lord was released and later disappeared, Haberturk news portal reported on Monday.
According to testimony in a probe launched into the incident by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), Burhan Kuzu, a former lawmaker for the AKP and advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressured judges E. O. and O. G.
Another judge, C. O., who is accused of releasing the drug lord, also confirmed Kuzu’s intervention in the case but denied that he had been influenced by pressure from the politician.
However, C. O. admitted last year in an investigation launched into the release ruling that Kuzu had forced him to make the ruling.
“This is a highly sensitive issue for government,” the judge quoted the former MP as saying.
Other questioned judges, E. O. and O. G., who separately ruled for Zindasti’s arrest before and after his last controversial release by C. O., explicitly stated that Kuzu and his lawyer had forced them to rule in favor of Zindasti.
Prosecutor E. D., who had ordered the arrest of Zindasti, told the investigating HSK officials that the accused Judge C. O. had even tried to influence his decision during the judicial procedure, according to the report by Mustafa Sekercioglu from Haberturk.
The prosecutor said C. O. had paid visits to his office at least three to four times, asking about the result of the case each time.
When the prosecutor asked the judge during his last visit why he was inquiring about the case so much, the judge allegedly said he had been under immense pressure.
“When I asked him who was pressuring him, he said Burhan Kuzu from Ankara was calling him continuously,” the prosecutor said.
Then the judge asked the prosecutor not to send the case to him so that he would avoid the case and pressure by Kuzu.
However, in the end, the case went to the accused judge, who released the suspected drug lord.
During his testimony, the prosecutor also touched upon another disputable ruling by the same judge who had previously released Zindasti’s fellows.
On April 19, 2018, Zindasti was arrested together with five other suspects, including two police officers on a range of charges, including drug smuggling and murder. The Judge C. O, however, released Zindasti and his three affiliates six months later.
Despite an arrest order by a prosecutor three hours after his release, Zindasti and his men could not be captured.
In March 2019, a picture emerged of Kuzu and Zindasti while the two were having dinner.
After his photo with Zindasti was published by Cumhuriyet daily, Kuzu said during an interview that it is no big deal and he was introduced to him by some AKP members as a businessman seeking Turkish citizenship.
Kuzu dismissed all allegations against him as a plot by FETO, an abbreviation formed up by the government to describe the Gulen Movement as a terrorist organization following the failed July 15 coup.
According to critical journalist Timur Soykan, the Kuzu-Zindasti incident is “a new Susurluk case for Turkey.”
The journalist argued that Zindasti-related murders and his relations with the Turkish politicians might reveal an illegal mafia-state partnership, as is the case in the Susurluk incident in the mid-1990s in Turkey.
A car accident in the village of Susurluk on November 3, 1996, revealed an ongoing partnership between members of the military, parliament, security forces, and organized crime in Turkey. In the car crash, three passengers were killed. Among them was a police chief, a drug trafficker, and a mistress of the trafficker. A Member of Parliament was injured.
It was later established, through weapons and a diplomatic passport assigned to the trafficker, that the then interior minister personally endorsed him.
The scandal later resulted in a parliamentary inquiry and official reports, which further made the trafficker’s picture clear as an officially employed assassin, who was assigned to target Kurdish and Armenian militants in Europe and Turkey. After the revelations, the minister had to resign; however, nobody faced an immediate court case.
The Susurluk case had drawn greater scrutiny from the Turkish media than today’s incident, the journalist claimed.