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Iran Press TV

Bijan Rafiekian charged over conspiracy to act as foreign government agent

Iran Press TV

Mon Dec 17, 2018 10:25PM

Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner of ex-US national security adviser Michael Flynn, has been charged by federal prosecutors with illegally lobbying for the extradition of Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish leader.

Bijan Rafiekian, who also goes by the name Bijan Kian, was arrested and appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on Monday. He was charged with two counts including failing to register as a foreign agent.

Kamil Ekim Alptekin, another associate of Flynn, has also been charged.

Rafiekian was vice-chairman of Flynn's business group, the Flynn Intel Group, where he supervised much of the group's foreign political work for the Turkish interests, the indictment revealed. Rafjekian and Alptekin worked in 2016 to seek ways to have Gulen returned from the US to Turkey.

According to court documents, the two men "conspired covertly and unlawfully to influence US politicians and public opinion concerning a Turkish citizen living in the United States whose extradition was then being sought by the Government of Turkey."

"The defendants sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public, and ultimately to secure the Turkish citizen's extradition," the indictment said.

"Although the Government of Turkey directed the work through Alptekin, the defendants sought to conceal Turkey's involvement in the efforts to discredit the Turkish citizen," it added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of directing a failed coup in the country.

In mid-July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen, now 77, of having orchestrated and masterminded the botched putsch. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country's institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

The US-based cleric has since strongly denied any involvement in the coup attempt against Erdogan. However, Ankara labeled his transnational religious and social movement as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

The dissident cleric, a Green Card-holder who has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s, has already called on Ankara to end its "witch hunt" of his followers, a move he says is aimed at "weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime."

Ankara has long been pressing on its NATO ally for the extradition of Gulen and has already sent multiple extradition requests to Washington, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

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