Two former business associates of Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, have been indicted for conspiring to influence both U.S. politicians and public opinion concerning a political rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
Prosecutors charged Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin with acting as unregistered agents of the Turkish government in a plot centered around Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys allege the two business associates “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.”
Alptekin is also charged with several counts of lying to federal investigators about his roles in the operation.
Gulen has been blamed by the Turkish government for orchestrating a failed military coup against Erdrogan’s government.
According to the indictment, Flynn, Kian and Alptekin’s secret lobbying effort against Gulen, initially dubbed the 90-day “Truth Campaign” and later named “Project Confidence,” began in late July 2016, after the U.S. Justice Department rejected the Turkish government’s request to extradite Gulen from the United States earlier that year.
The indictment details how Kian and Alptekin plotted a 90-day anti-Gulen campaign – and disguised the fact that the real source of funding for the operation was the Turkish government.
The whole time, Kian and Alptekin were in contact with high-level Turkish officials, receiving a “green light” from unnamed Turkish ministers on the procedure of the operation and arranging a meeting with the ministers in New York City in September of 2016, according to the indictment.
In November of 2016, The Hill published an op-ed written by Flynn comparing Gulen to Osama bin Laden and urging the U.S. to “adjust our foreign policy to recognize Turkey as a priority.”
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