National Security

Former Flynn associate pleads not guilty to charges of lobbying on behalf of Turkey

Stefani Reynolds

A former associate of onetime national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of working as an unregistered foreign agent.

Bijan Kian, also known as Bijan Rafiekian, has been accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of Turkey for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric based in the U.S.

Charges against Kian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish national and associate of Flynn, were unsealed on Monday.

His guilty plea came on the same day that a judge delayed sentencing of Flynn for lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian ambassador. 

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have alleged that Kian violated the the Foreign Agents Registration Act by working as an unregistered foreign agent of Turkey while he worked for the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group.{mosads}

Alptekin, who was also charged Monday, is currently residing in Istanbul and is not expected to appear in court.

The trial for the ex-associates has been set for Feb. 11, according to ABC News. 

Prosecutors say that Alptekin and Kian illegally conspired to influence public opinion in the U.S. about Gülen. Prosecutors did not specifically name Gülen in the filing, but he is widely assumed to be the Turkish citizen referenced in documents. 

Alptekin and Kian are accused of hiding the Flynn Intel Group’s work by naming Alptekin’s company as a client rather than the government in Turkey. 

A former top Trump campaign surrogate, Flynn came under scrutiny after penning an op-ed in The Hill on Election Day 2016 defending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid concern over a crackdown on dissidents.

The charges against Alptekin and Kian are thought to stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, though neither Mueller nor prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have confirmed whether that is the case.

NBC News reported in November 2017 that Kian had become a subject of Mueller’s probe.

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