Turkish daily publishes photograph of AKP officials with Iranian drug lord
Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet daily has published a photograph of former ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Burhan Kuzu with a prominent Iranian heroin smuggler who Kuzu denied knowing after being accused of helping release from prison.
Kuzu, who currently serves on AKP’s Central Decision and Management Board, previously denied having met Iranian Naji Sharifi Zindashti, after Habertürk news site in October of last year said the former AKP deputy had pressured a judge to have Zindashti released from prison pending trial, Cumhuriyet recalled.
The notorious heroin smuggler, along with nine of his gang members, were detained by İstanbul narcotics police in a raid in April of last year, then released pending trial along with three gang members on Oct. 19. Zindashti went missing shortly thereafter and police believe he has fled the country.
Following Cumhuriyet’s publication of the photograph, Kuzu said that he met with Zindashti once, and the drug lord asked him for help with this Turkish citizenship application.
‘’I called the director-general and asked for their help. The director called me back a month later and told me ‘this man has got some troubles.’ So then I told him to leave it.’’ Cumhuriyet quoted Kuzu as saying.
A member of the ruling AKP’s women’s branch, also pictured in the same photograph published by Cumhuriyet, offered to ‘’sell’’ Zindashti Turkish citizenship, Yeni Çağ columnist Murat Ağırel wrote on Friday.
Aliye Uzun told Zindashti that she could get him Turkish citizenship, which prompted him to promise her a Range Rover in exchange for the favour, Ağırel said, citing Zindashti’s statement to the police following his arrest last year.
Turkish media has reported on Zindashti’s long history of co-operation with Turkish authorities, the Gülen movement and the U.S. government, including tipping off the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and assisting in the capture of members of a rival drug cartel.
Zindashti is also suspected of having had another Iranian-origin gangster involved in a drug deal assassination in Dubai in 2016.