(Reuters) - An ex-business partner of Michael Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, was charged with undisclosed lobbying aimed at ensuring the extradition to Turkey of a Muslim cleric living in the United States.
Flynn's former partner, Bijan Rafiekian, was indicted on two criminal counts in the Eastern District of Virginia, including conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, according to an indictment unsealed on Monday.
Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman, was also charged in the indictment for allegedly plotting to discredit and cause the extradition of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile in the United States.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Gulen for stoking a failed coup against him in 2016. Gulen denies that.
A representative for Alptekin, 41, who was charged with six criminal counts, said she did not immediately have a comment.
A lawyer for Rafiekian, 66, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"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," attorneys for the Eastern District of Virginia said in the indictment.
While the Turkish citizen was not named, the person fits the description of Gulen, a one-time ally of Erdogan who lives in a compound in rural Pennsylvania.
Turkey's foreign minister said on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump has told Erdogan that Washington was working on extraditing Gulen.
The probe into Flynn and his now defunct lobbying and consulting business had been handled previously by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Earlier this year the probe was handed off to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia to handle.
Flynn, who was only national security adviser for less than a month at the start of Trump's presidency, has been cooperating with Mueller's probe.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2018 00:06:59 IST