Trial of ex-Flynn partner accused of illegally lobbying for Turkey continues

The trial of a former business partner of ex-U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is accused of acting as an illegal agent of the Turkish government, began on Monday with opening remarks from Kian’s defence attorney followed by a testimony on Tuesday from Flynn’s former lawyer.

Iranian-American businessman Bijan Rafiekian, along with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, is on trial for illegally lobbying for Turkey. The pair are charged with conspiring to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the leader of a religious group the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999 and Ankara has repeatedly requested his extradition. Prosecutors allege Kian and Flynn’s company, Flynn Intelligence Group, contracted Alptekin to run a smear campaign against Gülen. 

Flynn was initially slated to be a witness in the trial; however, U.S. prosecutors have cancelled plans to portray him as co-conspirator. Rafiekian was Flynn’s key counterpart in a lobbying and consulting firm.

Flynn in 2017 admitted he lied to the government about his relationship with Turkish and Russian entities during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors allege Rafiekian and Alptekin hid evidence of their lobbying efforts for months, including receipt of a $600,000 payment to Flynn Intel Group, Courthouse News website reported on Monday. 

U.S. Attorney John Gibbs told a jury Rafiekian ’s plan to usher along Gülen’s extradition had been underway since August 2016, the site said.

Flynn’s former lawyer Robert Kelner testified that Rafiekian, also known as Kian, was upset over submitting foreign-agent filing for their Turkey-related work, Politico reported on Tuesday.

Kelner told jurors that the Flynn associate never shared key information about links between the lobbying work and Turkish government officials,  adding that Rafiekian, ‘’seemed upset by the lawyers’ recommendation in early 2017 that the firm make a retroactive filing about the work Flynn’s firm did to try to build support for the extradition from the U.S. of a dissident Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen.’’

Kelner recalled a “late-night” phone call where Rafiekian indicated some aspect of the planned Foreign Agent Registration Act submission was affecting his health, the article said. 

Kelner’s team in its inquiry found that everything Flynn and his colleagues did as part of the engagement focused on Gülen’s extradition and failed to address any other aspect of U.S.-Turkey relations, Politico said. 

Flynn last month dropped Kelner as a lawyer and switched to a new legal team headed by Sidney Powell.

Rafekian faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted and his trial is expected to last one week.