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Erdoğan aide faces probe due to alleged role in release of drug lord from jail

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The chief public prosecutor’s office in İstanbul has launched an investigation into Burhan Kuzu, a chief advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, due to his alleged role in the release of an Iranian drug lord from pre-trial detention in Turkey in 2018, according to Turkish media reports.

Kuzu allegedly pressured a judge to have drug lord Naci Sherifi Zindashti released from jail pending trial.

The notorious drug lord was first arrested in September 2007 following a police operation in the Büyükçekmece district of İstanbul. Seventy-five kilograms of heroin were seized by the police during the operation, which led to Zindashti’s arrest. The drug lord was released in 2010.

Zindashti was arrested again in April 2018 along with six of his gang members due to his alleged involvement in 10 murders. He was released pending trial in October 2018 in a development that came as a surprise to many. He subsequently left Turkey.

Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) launched an investigation into the release of Zindashti, and prosecutor Ercan Devrim, who testified to the prosecutors as part of the investigation, said İstanbul judge Cevdet Özcan, who released Zindashti, told him that he received constant calls from Kuzu in Ankara, asking him to ensure the release of the drug lord.

Kuzu, a professor of constitutional law and a co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who is no longer a member of parliament, is being accused of using his political power to influence the course of a judicial proceeding.

At the time Kuzu claimed that he did not know Zindashti, but later a photo emerged showing Kuzu and Zindashti at a table having dinner.

Kuzu denies imposing any pressure on the judge to the ensure release of the drug lord and alleges that claims against him are part of a conspiracy plotted by the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

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