Dec 18 2018

Flynn’s ex- business partner  Rafiekian pleads not guilty to lobbying for Turkey

The former business partner of Donald Trump's ex-national security adviser,Michael Flynn,  has pleaded not guilty in case where he stands accused of secretly lobbying for the extradition of a Turkish cleric accused of orchestrating the country's July 2016 coup attempt, Reuters news agency reported.

Bijan Rafiekian, one of two men indicted on Monday, entered a not guilty plea in federal court in the U.S. state of Virginia on Tuesday, Reuters said, after being charged with lobbying aimed at securing the extradition of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen to Turkey without disclosing those efforts as required by law and providing false statements to the U.S. Justice Department about the work.

Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, denies Ankara’s allegations about orchestrating the coup as the Turkish government continues a crackdown on his followers, referred to as the Gülen movement.

A former director at the US Export-Import Bank and co-founder of the Flynn Intel Group, Rafiekian was indicted on Monday along with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who remains at large.

Rafiekian will stand trial on Feb. 11 February, Reuters said.

Washington’s refusal to extradite Gülen, which Ankara has called for repeatedly, remains a source of conflict between the two countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Sunday said Trump told Erdogan at a recent G20 summit in Argentina that the U.S. was in the process of working to extradite  77-year-old Gülen, among others.

Flynn, who served as Trump's national security adviser, has been cooperating with prosecutors on the probe after admitting to lying about his role in the Turkish lobbying effort.

Flynn and his son would have received $15 million for returning the cleric to Turkey, according to the  Wall Street Journal.