Erdogan aide faces new accusations over judicial interference

People hold placards reading ‘Shame to thieves with boxes’ during a demonstration in Istanbul against corruption and the Government. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 May 2020

Erdogan aide faces new accusations over judicial interference

  • Burhan Kuzu is accused of using influence on behalf of drug lord Zindashti

ISTANBUL: A senior adviser to the Turkish president has again been accused of judicial interference.

Burhan Kuzu is a founding member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and a leading member of the board that advises President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on legal matters.
Orhan Ungan, who was imprisoned after the daughter of an Iranian drug lord and her driver were killed, said that Kuzu tried to keep him behind bars.  
His accusation follows the indictment of the presidential aide on charges of judicial interference in an attempt to secure the release of the Iranian drug lord, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, from custody. Zindashti and Ungan are rivals.
Kuzu is accused of trying to use undue influence on behalf of Zindashti, who was convicted in 2007 of possessing 75kg of heroin. Zindashti was released in August 2010, but detained again in April 2018 on suspicion of murder, instigating murder and membership of an outlawed organization.  
He is said to have called prosecutors and judges and told them that Zindashti’s release would be beneficial for Turkish-Iranian relations, and he was freed six months later. The prosecutor’s office opposed his release and issued an arrest warrant, but Zindashti had fled.
Kuzu initially denied ever meeting the Iranian, but was forced to admit that he had after the publication of a photograph of him with Zindashti in a restaurant. He said the Iranian had presented himself as a businessman seeking Turkish citizenship.
Ozgur Ozel, an outspoken parliamentarian from the main opposition CHP, has long criticized Kuzu for interfering in the judicial process while holding key government positions.
“How does such a person have a seat in the legal issues board?” Ozel said in a parliamentary speech earlier this year. “Journalists are behind bars, but he is there. He was caught red-handed in the Zindashti case.”
Prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison sentence for Kuzu.

FASTFACT

The new investigation is a sign of deteriorating relations between Iran and Turkey. The relations have also soured over their disagreements regarding Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, where they support opposing camps. Tehran is against the presence of Turkish soldiers in Syria and wants to keep President Bashar Assad in office.

The new investigation is a sign of deteriorating relations between Iran and Turkey.
The killing of Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, who was shot dead in the middle of a busy street in Istanbul last November, was harshly criticized by the US, who claimed that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in the assassination.  
Vardanjani, who was a former defense official in Iran before fleeing to Turkey, was leading a campaign to “root out the corrupt mafia commanders” with his term.
 Turkey’s relations with Iran have also soured over their disagreements regarding Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, where they support opposing camps.  
Tehran is against the presence of Turkish soldiers in Syria and wants to keep President Bashar Assad in office. Turkey, on the other hand, supports the rebels and conducts military offensives in the region to support its regional claims.


Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

Updated 16 min 5 sec ago

Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

  • Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms
  • Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces prevented the arrival of hundreds of protesters at the French ambassador’s residence and the French Embassy in Lebanon on Friday.

They feared the recurrence of riots similar to the ones that erupted in front of the Danish Embassy in Ashrafieh, Beirut, in 2006, and led to 28 people being injured, damage to storefronts, and the burning of the consulate building and terrorizing of people.

A few hundred worshippers left mosques after Friday prayers and marched to defend the Prophet Muhammad.

Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms.

Khaldoun Qawwas, Dar Al-Fatwa’s media spokesperson, told Arab News: “These groups have nothing to do with Dar Al-Fatwa, which has already announced its position regarding what happened in France in two separate statements.”

Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, the grand mufti of Lebanon, in a statement issued a week earlier, said that “freedom of opinion and expression does not entail insulting the beliefs and symbols of others, and this requires a reconsideration of the concept of absolute freedom.”

He stressed the “renunciation of violence and confrontation of radicalism and terrorism that has no religion or race.”

Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut, since the embassy and the French ambassador’s residence are located where roads leading to the city’s western and eastern neighborhoods intersect. This led to a huge traffic jam in the capital.

The protest’s starting point was the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque in Al-Mazraa, situated only a few kilometers from the Residence des Pins (Pine Residence).

Three major security checkpoints — one set up by the riot police — separated the Residence des Pins and protesters, some of whom were transported by buses from the north of Lebanon to Beirut.

Protesters held Islamic signs and chanted slogans denouncing France, its President Emmanuel Macron and its former colonization of the country. Some protesters tried to remove barbed wire and threw stones, water bottles and batons at the security forces. Another group burned the French flag. Security forces responded by throwing tear gas canisters, leading to the retreat of the protesters.

In a statement, Lebanon’s Supreme Council of the Roman Catholic condemned “the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice.”

The council considered that “this terrorist crime has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. It is an individual act carried out by terrorists haunted by radicalism, obscurantism and the rejection of the French people’s historical civilizational values. Through their acts, they abuse the spirit of tolerance, coexistence, acceptance of the other and the freedom of thought and belief which all religions call for.”

The council called for “staying away from defaming religions and beliefs and inciting hate and resentment among people, raising the voice of moderation, wisdom and reason, working together in the spirit of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together announced by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb from the UAE last year.”

During the Friday sermon, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan condemned “any criminal act against any people, including the French people.” He added: “We categorically reject what happened in Nice yesterday, strongly condemn it and consider it a blatant and insolent attack on Muslims before others.”

He simultaneously condemned “the official French position that affronted the Prophet, took lightly and made light of the feelings of millions of Muslims.”