January 3, 2019 / 4:25 PM / 12 days ago

Flynn's ex-business partner seeks trial delay in Turkey lobbying case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - Lawyers for Bijan Rafiekian, the ex-business partner of former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, said Thursday they want to delay the upcoming February criminal trial into whether their client covertly lobbied for Turkey.

During a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Rafiekian’s attorney Robert Trout said he needs more time to review evidence turned over on Thursday morning, and plans to ask the judge to move the trial from February 11 to sometime in September.

Rafiekian, a former U.S. Export-Import Bank director and co-founder of the consultancy firm Flynn Intel Group, is facing charges that he covertly lobbied for Turkey to discredit and extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States to Turkey.

He was indicted in December along with Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish-Dutch businessman, for failing to disclose their lobbying and lying about the nature of their work.

Rafiekian is facing two criminal counts, including acting as a foreign agent and conspiracy, while Alptekin is facing six.

Rafiekian has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Alptekin has previously denied the allegations through a spokesperson.

Rafiekian’s indictment came about a year after Flynn was charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. President Donald Trump fired Flynn in early 2017.

As part of his plea deal, Flynn also admitted to lying about his role in the Turkish lobbying effort.

The case against Rafiekian is being brought by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, and not by Mueller’s office.

However, prosecutor James Gillis told the judge on Thursday that much of the evidence turned over came from Mueller’s investigators.

Last month, a federal judge in Washington fiercely criticized Flynn for lying to the FBI in connection with Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and delayed his sentencing until he has finished helping prosecutors.

It is unclear whether or not Flynn could be called upon to testify in the case against Rafiekian.

Trout said Thursday that as part of his plans to mount a defence, he may seek evidence abroad, including possibly deposing relevant witnesses overseas.

Judge Anthony Trenga ordered the defence to file a motion to requesting the trial delay by Jan. 21, and scheduled a hearing on the matter for Feb. 7.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Alistair Bell

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