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US jury finds ex-Flynn business partner guilty of secretly lobbying for Turkey

Bijan Rafiekian's lobbying efforts aimed at getting US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited to Turkey
Michael Flynn, who served as Trump's national security adviser, has admitted to lying about his role in the Turkish lobbying effort (AFP/File photo)

A former business partner of Michael Flynn, the US president's ex-national security adviser, has been found guilty of secretly lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government, a Department of Justice spokesman said.

Bijan Rafiekian was convicted on Tuesday in US federal court of illegally lobbying for a foreign government without disclosing those efforts - as required by law - and lying to the US Justice Department, Reuters reported.

The illegal lobbying aimed at getting Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the US to Turkey.

The Turkish government blames Gulen, a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for a failed 2016 coup, but the US has refused to extradite him.

Under US federal law, anyone working on behalf of a foreign government is required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

A jury found Rafiekian guilty of the charges despite comments made by the judge, who said outside of the jury's presence that the government's evidence was weak, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Sentencing is set for 18 October, the newspaper said.

Flynn business partners charged with undisclosed lobbying for Turkey
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Rafiekian, a former director at the US Export-Import Bank and co-founder of the Flynn Intel Group, was indicted in December along with Turkish businessman Kamil Ekim Alptekin, who faces the same charges. 

Alptekin is believed to be residing in Turkey, and is not expected to appear in US court to face charges. 

The Turkish government has repeatedly called on Washington to extradite Gulen to Turkey, where they want him to stand trial for his alleged crimes.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, has repeatedly denied accusations he was involved in the failed putsch in 2016.

The case against Rafiekian and Alptekin was built in part on information provided by Flynn, who in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a former Russian ambassador to the US during Donald Trump's transition into the White House. 

Flynn, who served as Trump's national security adviser at the start of his presidency, has also admitted to lying about his role in the Turkish lobbying effort.