WASHINGTON, A US federal jury late Tuesday convicted an American on charges of “conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, conspiring to make false statements and willful omissions in a FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) filing, and acting as an agent of a foreign government.” According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Bijan Rafiekian, 67, along with his co-conspirator, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 42, a Turkish national “with close ties to the highest levels of the Government of Turkey, were involved in a conspiracy to covertly influence United States politicians and public opinion against a Turkish national, Fethullah Gulen, who is living in the United States,” the Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement.
It added that “the conspiracy included using the Flynn Intel Group (FIG); a company founded by Rafiekian and Michael T. Flynn, which provided services based upon Flynn’s national security expertise.” Rafiekian faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when sentenced on October 18 but “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” according to the DoJ.
The Government of Turkey had filed two extradition requests for Gulen and has been trying to extradite him back to Turkey since 2015, the DoJ noted.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said the verdict “should stand as a deterrent to any malign foreign influence that undermines the integrity of our political processes.
“Through misrepresentations in his FARA filing, Mr. Rafiekian attempted to deceive the public and influence key leaders on behalf of Turkey. The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the gravity that they deserve,” he stressed.
Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the attempted coup in July 2016. He has denied any involvement.
Source: Kuwait News Agency