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Flynn Associates Indicted in Plot to Push Extradition of Erdogan Foe

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in istanbul

WASHINGTON -- Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have charged two lobbyists who worked with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with acting as agents of a foreign government, according to an indictment released today.

Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul were also charged with conspiracy. Alptekin was also charged with four counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Kian appeared in federal court this morning and was released on bail. Alptekin, who owns a company in the Netherlands, remains at large.

Flynn is referred to as "Person A" in the indictment, which centers around the effort to convince U.S. lawmakers and government officials to extradite a foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Fethullah Gülen has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999; Erdogan blames him for the 2016 coup attempt and has imprisoned scores of perceived political foes with no ties to Gülen on claims that they're connected to his alleged anti-Erdogan conspiracy.

Flynn's lobby shop, the Flynn Intel Group, is referred to as Company A in the indictment, which alleges that Alptekin's company paid $600,000 to Flynn's firm from a Turkish account, and 20 percent from two of the three payments were kicked back to Alptekin's company.

"The defendants sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public, and ultimately to secure the Turkish citizen's extradition," says the indictment. "Although the Government of Turkey directed the work through Alptekin, the defendants sought to conceal Turkey's involvement in the efforts to discredit the Turkish citizen. As part of this concealment, the defendants used Alptekin's company, Company B, rather than the Government of Turkey, to serve as Company A's 'client.' Company B was also to pay for Company A's fee, although it is clear that Turkish government officials approved the budget for, and received regular updates on, the progress of Company A's work."

Turkey formally requested Gülen's extradition on July 23, 2016, and was informed by the Justice Department that they hadn't met the legal standards for the arrest and extradition of the Erdogan foe.

On July 27, 2016, according to the indictment, Kian wrote to Alptekin that he'd had a "detailed discussion" with Flynn and "we are ready to engage on what needs to be done." As their plan moved forward with a meeting with a Turkish government minister and the development of bullet-point objectives, Kian wrote to Alptekin that they and Flynn were "the only cleared entities on this at this time."

The indictment also describes how the trio worked together on an anti-Gülen op-ed, bearing Flynn's byline, that was published in The Hill on Election Day.

Kian faces up to 15 years in prison on the conspiracy and lobbying charges. Alptekin faces the same maximum, with an additional 5 years each for four false statement charges.