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Flynn takes offer to cooperate with prosecution in Turkey lobbying case

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Former US national security advisor Michael Flynn on Tuesday accepted an offer from a US judge to delay his sentencing and cooperate with any pending investigations to bolster his case for leniency, Reuters reported.

Flynn was to be sentenced for lying to the FBI related to his contacts with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States. But after accepting the judge’s offer, according to his lawyer, he was expecting to testify at his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian’s trial.

Rafiekian on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges he covertly lobbied for Turkey to discredit and extradite a Muslim cleric living in the United States.

A former director at the US Export-Import Bank who worked on US President Donald Trump’s transition, Rafiekian, 66, was indicted on Monday along with a Turkish-Dutch businessman for undisclosed lobbying and for allegedly lying about their work.

Rafiekian entered the plea at an arraignment in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and is set to fight the charges at a trial starting on Feb. 11, court records show.

The indictment alleges that Rafiekian and the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, worked with Turkish government officials on a secret plan to return Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is living in exile in Pennsylvania, to Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed Gülen for stoking a failed coup against him in 2016, and has been pushing for his extradition for more than two years. The United States has rejected the plea, citing a lack of evidence.

Rafiekian, a co-founder of the Flynn Intel Group, the consultancy at the heart of the lobbying case, has become one of the few people prosecuted for a rarely enforced law requiring that lobbyists disclose their work for a foreign power.

Prosecutors contend that Rafiekian provided false statements to the Justice Department about his work, citing emails with Alptekin that appeared to show Alptekin was coordinating the $600,000 project with two Turkish government ministers.

The case against Rafiekian and Alptekin was built in part on information provided by Flynn, who has admitted to lying about his role in the lobbying effort and has been cooperating with the investigation of Rafiekian and Alptekin.

US District Judge Anthony Trenga, who will oversee Rafiekian’s trial, asked prosecutors about the whereabouts of Alptekin, who through a spokesman denied the charges against him on Monday.

Alptekin was believed to be in Turkey and was not expected to appear in court, a prosecutor told the judge, said a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is prosecuting the case.

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