Former business associate of Michael Flynn pleads not guilty

Cleric Fethullah Gulen spoke to reporters at his compound in Saylorsburg Pa. His case was connected to new charges unveiled on Monday against associates of Michael Flynn
Ex-Flynn business partner charged in Turkish lobbying case
Author

20 December, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, recently recommended that Flynn avoid jail time due to his extensive cooperation with investigators.

Charges against the two former associates, Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin, were unsealed on Monday in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom.

The lobbying work is not illegal if the foreign agents register with the Justice Department as per the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

According to the indictment, Kian, who served as a director of the US Export-Import Bank during the George W. Bush administration, sketched out a prospective anti-Gulen lobbying message to Alptekin that compared the Pennsylvania-based Gulen to Ayatollah Imam Khomeini, the once-exiled Iranian ayatollah who seized power in Iran after the overthrow of the shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Flynn worked closely with Kian on trying to get cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited back to Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Mr Gulen for stoking a failed coup against him in 2016. The indictment does not name Flynn, apparently referring to him instead as Person A. It appears to refer to Flynn's business as Company A.

Kian and Alptekin are charged with conspiracy and acting as agents of a foreign government; Alptekin is also accused of making false statements.

A lawyer for Rafiekian, 66, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Mr Alptekin, 41, maintained that he was Mr Flynn's client, not Turkey, a spokeswoman Molly Toomey said.

Instead, the Flynn Intel Group's work would culminate in an op-ed with Flynn's byline published in The Hill newspaper and website on November 8, 2016, the day before the presidential election, according to court documents. Flynn has denied these reports, but Turkey has had Gulen's follower rendered illegally back to its territory from other countries-including, most recently, Kosovo.

That same month, according to the indictment, Flynn, Kian, and Alptekin met with high-level Turkish officials in NY to discuss the campaign.

The Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organisation affiliated with Mr Gulen, said in a statement that the indictments illustrated "just how far the Erdogan Government will go in breaking United States law".

President Donald Trump said last month that he is not considering extraditing Gulen. Prosecutors recommended he serve no prison time, and said he helped with Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, and also a separate criminal investigation.

Molly Toomey, a spokeswoman for Alptekin, said Alptekin had initially wanted to broker a contract between Flynn Intel Group and the Turkish government, but that never occurred and he ultimately hired the company himself.

Flynn was charged by Mueller for lying to investigators a year ago, including about his work at the Flynn Intel Group Inc. on behalf of Turkey.

On Nov. 8, 2016 - the day of the USA presidential election - an op-ed appeared in The Hill newspaper under Flynn's byline that repeated Kian's "apple tree" language, comparing Gulen with Khomeini.


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