Bijan Rafiekian, Michael Flynn associate, pleads not guilty to working as unregistered foreign agent
A former associate of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded not guilty in a Virginia federal court on Tuesday to charges of working as an unregistered foreign agent.
A trial is set for February 11.
Bijan Kian, also known as Bijan Rafiekian, is accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government to influence U.S. officials. Charges against Mr. Kian and another Flynn associate, Kamil Ekim Alpetkin, were unsealed Monday.
Mr. Kian’s not guilty plea came the same day a federal judge in Washington, D.C. delayed Flynn’s sentencing for lying to the FBI. The delay came after the judge lambasted Flynn for his crimes.
Flynn has cooperated with federal investigators in the case against his two former associates and is expected to testify if there is a trial, his defense attorney said in a Washington, D.C. courtroom Tuesday.
Prosecutors in Virginia say Kian worked “covertly and illegally” to advance the Turkish government’s agenda. Specifically, they sought to influence U.S. government officials, urging them to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Mr. Gulen has been blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup attempt in 2016. He has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Mr. Alpetkin is currently evading authorities in Istanbul and is unlikely to appear in court.
Prosecutors say Mr. Alptekin and Mr. Kian hid their connections to the Turkish government through Flynn’s international lobbying group. As part of the effort to conceal Turkey’s involvement, they named Alpetkin’s company as the client rather than the Turkish government.
A prosecutor with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team said Tuesday Flynn could have been indicted in that case had he not agreed to cooperate with the government.
The charges against the two defendants appear to stem from Mueller’s Russia investigation. However, the charges were brought by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia and not Mueller’s team.