Two associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn were charged by federal prosecutors with acting as agents of a foreign government Monday.
Bijan Kian, Flynn’s former business partner, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman, conspired to influence American politicians to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. The indictment says their work was concealed as being between Flynn’s and Alptekin’s consulting firms, but in reality it was on behalf of the Turkish government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long sought the extradition of Gulen, who many believe helped instigate a failed coup in 2016.
“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,” reads the indictment from the Eastern District of Virginia, according to NBC News.
Flynn, who is described as “Person A” in the indictment, had a key roll in the lobbying campaign. Negotiations began in July 2016—while Flynn was preparing for a role in the Trump administration—after the Justice Department declined to extradite Gulen to the Turkish government, citing lack of evidence.
Flynn, Kian, and Alptekin drew up a contract in which Alptekin’s firm paid hundreds of thousands to Flynn Intel Group, Flynn’s consulting group, for delivering “findings and results including but not limited to making criminal referrals” against Gulen, The Washington Post reports. When Flynn’s company belatedly registered as a foreign agent in March 2017, it disclosed over $500,000 in payments from Alptekin’s firm, Inovo BV.
Kian and Alptekin were both indicted by a federal grand jury last week, CNN reports. Kian appeared in court Monday morning and was released without bail. He has another court appearance scheduled for Tuesday.
Alptekin, who resides in Istanbul, has not been arrested. He claimed innocence in 2017, tweeting, “Gen.Flynn never engaged in lobbying work for me or my firm. And I never lobbied or contracted lobbyist on behalf of the Turkish Government.”
Flynn—one of the first of President Donald Trump’s associates to fall under Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year. As part of the plea, Flynn admitted to participating in this scheme.
He’s provided “substantial assistance” to the investigation since then, according to a court filing from Mueller earlier this month, leading the special counsel to recommend no prison time. Flynn is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Kian was released on bail. Kian was released Monday without having to post bail.