U.S. prosecutors to portray Flynn as co-conspirator in secret lobbying for Turkey case

U.S. prosecutors have cancelled plans to call President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn as a witness in a trial involving Flynn’s former business partner accused of illegally lobbying for Turkey and now plan to portray him as co-conspirator, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.

In December, Flynn’s business partner Bijan Rafiekian, along with Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman regarded as close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was charged with conspiring to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the leader of a religious group the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt and designates a terrorist organisation. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999. 

Federal prosecutors in Virginia now plan to portray Flynn as a “co-conspirator” along with Rafiekian in the scheme to persuade U.S. politicians to support Turkey’s bid to extradite Gülen, Reuters said. 

Flynn’s cooperation in the trial is set to begin this month, Reuters said, could have an impact on how he is sentenced in his own case in a federal court in Washington.

Flynn admitted in 2017 that his company had received payments from the Turkish government to advance Ankara’s interests during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The former national security advisor also admitted to submitting false statements to the government regarding his lobbying work with Rafiekian, on behalf of Turkey.

His new lawyers now say Flynn did not knowingly submit anything false when retroactively registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in early 2017, Reuters said.

The United States has so far sidestepped Ankara’s repeated requests for the extradition of Gülen, in one of the array of issues of contention between the two countries.