Michael Flynn associates, Bijan Kian and Kamil Alptekin, charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey
Two former business associates of ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn were charged for their roles in attempting to get Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the United States, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.
Bijan Kian, also known as Bijan Rafiekian, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin were charged in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court. They are accused of illegally lobbying U.S. government officials to influence the public’s perception in the U.S. against Mr. Gulen. Mr. Alpetkin is also facing a charge of making false statements to federal investigators.
“Rafiekian and Alptekin conspired covertly and unlawfully to influence U.S. politicians and public opinion concerning a Turkish citizen living in the United States whose extradition was then being sought by the Government of Turkey,” Justice Department prosecutors said in the indictment.
Mr. Rafiekian worked for Flynn’s international lobbying group, while Mr. Alptekin served as a client of that company.
Flynn, who served as President Trump’s national security adviser early in the administration, will be sentenced Tuesday for lying to the FBI. The retired lieutenant general had been cooperating with federal investigators on another Justice Department investigation, according to a court filing last week.
The Turkish government has blamed Mr. Gulen, who lives in exile in northeastern Pennsylvania, for launching a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Prosecutors said the Turkish government sought to pressure U.S. officials to hand Mr. Gulen over through a lobbying and public relations campaign.
Mr. Alpketin and Mr. Rafiekian conspired to conceal the Turkish’s government’s role in directing the lobbying effort, according to the indictment. Turkish government officials used Mr. Alpketin’s company as a proxy, which then enlisted Flynn’s lobbying group to launch the influence campaign.
At one point, Mr. Alpketin emailed Mr. Rafiekian and Flynn saying that he had just finished meeting with Turkish ministers, and he now had “a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget and scope of the contract” for the campaign, according to the indictment.
The indictment said both Mr. Rafiekian and Mr. Alptekin failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Mr. Rafiekian previously served as a board member of the Export-Import Bank and co-founded a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.