Michael Flynn's Former Associates Face Charges of Illegal Lobbying for Turkey
19:01 17.12.2018(updated 21:03 17.12.2018)
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Two of former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's business associates are facing charges in the United States over illegal lobbying for Turkey, the Justice Department announced in a statement on Monday.
"An indictment was unsealed today charging Bijan Rafiekian, aka Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, California, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul, and a Turkish national, with conspiracy, acting in the United States as illegal agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI," the statement said.
US prosecutors allege that the two men engaged in a conspiracy to influence US politicians and public opinion against Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The conspiracy included Flynn writing an opinion article about Gulen in The Hill newspaper in an attempt to get him extradited from the United States, according to the unsealed indictment.
The report added that a Turkish businessman accused of paying Kian and Flynn is also named in the indictment, but is not in the United States.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that FBI investigators had taken into custody several suspected allies of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
"The FBI is working on FETO in 15 states. Arrests have already begun in New Jersey," Cavusoglu told lawmakers in parliament.
The day before, Cavusoglu announced that the United States was working on the extradition of the cleric to Turkey. However, no confirmation of this information has followed from the US side.
Still, media reports about possible extradition of Gulen continue to appear. Thus, in November, NBC News reported that President Donald Trump was looking for ways to extradite Gulen from the United States to appease Turkey and ease its pressure on the government of Saudi Arabia for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate in Istanbul.
Fethullah Gulen has been accused by Turkey of orchestrating a failed military coup on July 15, 2016. Gulen has repeatedly denied taking part in the coup. He has been living in the United States since 1999.
Since the coup failed, approximately 80,000 people have been arrested in Turkey over their alleged links to the cleric.
The US probe into the Turkey case started in 2016, after Flynn accused Gulen in an article published in The Hill newspaper of being radical Islamist. Investigators regard this article as part of a bigger lobbying scheme, where Flynn discussed with senior Turkish officials in December 2016 a possible deal under which the former would be paid to organize Gulen's return to Turkey.
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