Nov 10 2017

Flynn probed in alleged plan to abduct Turkish cleric

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun an investigation into the role of former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn in a plan to forcibly remove Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen from his U.S. home and deliver him to Turkey.

The plan was discussed in detail at a previously unreported December meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials. Flynn was to have been paid as much as $15 million, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the investigation.

The revelations may further complicate relations between the United States and Turkey, already fraught by Turkey’s arrest of U.S. consular staff and court proceedings in New York against Reza Zarrab, who had close connections with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, and a senior official of state-run Halkbank, on money-laundering charges.

Flynn met with the Turkish officials in mid-December at New York’s ‘21’ Club, where they discussed transporting Gülen on a private jet to the Turkish prison of Imrali, one of the people said, according to the newspaper.

It is not clear how advanced Mr. Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation. A lawyer for Flynn and a spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, the journal said.

Erdoğan accuses Gülen of masterminding an attempted military coup to remove him from power in July last year. Turkish police have detained thousands of the cleric’s followers, including fellow officers, judges and bureaucrats. Gülen denies the charges.

The alleged December meeting followed initial discussions between Flynn and Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in a New York hotel room on Sept. 19. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was at the meeting, has said the plan was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk the guy away."