Ex-Flynn business associates charged with trying to influence US politicians in Turkish lobbying case
Posted December 17, 2018 10:51 a.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2018 11:36 a.m. EST
(CNN) — Two former business associates of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn were charged with trying to influence US politicians to seek the extradition of a Turkish cleric, according to an indictment filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Bijan Kian, also known as Bijan Rafiekian, and a Dutch-Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin (aka Kamil Alptekin) are charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government. Alptekin is also charged with making false statements.
Rafiekian made an appearance in federal court in Virginia. He was released on bail. Attorneys for Kian and Alptekin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Turkish government has long demanded the US extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deemed Gulen responsible for a deadly attempted coup against him in 2016, which Gulen has denied.
The plot, the Justice Department said in a news release, involved using a company founded by Kian to "delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of the American public and United States politicians" to pave the way for Gulen's extradition. US authorities allege that high-level members of Turkey's government approved financing for the effort and Alptekin kept them updated on its progress.
President Donald Trump said last month that he is not considering extraditing Gulen.
This story is breaking and will be updated.