Judges may reinstate charges against Flynn associate for undisclosed Turkish lobbying
Judges are considering whether to reinstate charges against an associate of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for undisclosed lobbying work for a Turkish businessman.
On Friday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to restore criminal charges against illegal lobbying by Flynn's business partner Bijan Rafiekian. He was previously convicted by a jury for failing to register as a lobbyist under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), but acquitted by the presiding judge, who believed DOJ's case was too conjectural to dispel any notion of reasonable doubt to convict.
Rafiekian and Flynn were accused of being involved in a plot to kidnap exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen in cooperation with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference though he admitted in his guilty plea to filing false paperwork disclosing lobbying for Turkey.
Alptekin was also charged by Mueller and fled to Turkey to escape arrest. The businessman was accused of conspiring to violate FARA as well as failing himself to register as a foreign agent. He is known to be close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a connection that is believed to have assisted him in becoming chair of the the Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK) in 2014.
After news broke that Rafiekian's acquittal was being reviewed, Alptekin took to Twitter to attack the prosecution for failing to prove Rafiekian lied about his work at the same time denying that there was any criminality involved in the case.
The three judge panel agreed that the government did in fact have a strong circumstantial case against Rafiekian. Judge James Wynn Jr. acknowledged the difficulties involved with foreign agent cases, but pointed to the parallels between the work Flynn's company was doing for a Dutch company owned by Alptekin and a proposal they made to Turkish officials.
Rafiekian's lawyer James Tysse insisted that charges should not be filed based merely on suspicions rather than direct evidence. When questioned by Wynn about the possibility Flynn can be called to testify following his presidential pardon, Tysse said that was a potential option.
In May, Rafiekian's counsel appealed to Attorney General William Barr to review their client's case following Barr's announcement that DOJ would be dropping its case against Flynn. Tysse declined to comment on whether a presidential pardon would be sought for Rafiekian before President Donald Trump exists office.
Flynn was pardoned by President Trump after his election defeat to Joe Biden in November.