Washington, Nov 11 (IANS) US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is under investigation for alleged involvement in a plot to forcibly remove a Turkish dissident cleric living in the US and deliver him back to his country in return for millions of dollars.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Flynn — who quit his post after misleading the White House about meeting a Russian envoy before Trump took office — discussed having cleric Fethullah Gulen transported on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali. He was reportedly offered as much as $15 million for the act.
Gulen is a political rival to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has been accused of being behind the failed July 2016 coup.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is examining the meeting Flynn had with senior Turkish officials. Flynn’s lawyers fully denied the Journal story and called the claims as “outrageous”.
The Journal reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) questioned at least four people in regard to a mid-December meeting in New York at the “21” Club. Discussions between Flynn and Turkish representatives reportedly took place there.
The Journal said the people who described the alleged proposal didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge of the details. There’s no indication that money changed hands or that an agreement was made.
The discussions allegedly included how to transport Gulen on a private jet to Turkey.
Flynn’s lawyers Robert Kelner, Stephen Anthony and Brian Smith said: “Out of respect for the process of the various investigations regarding the 2016 campaign, we have intentionally avoided responding to every rumour or allegation raised in the media.
“But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: they are false.”
Investigators were also looking into the actions of his son, Michel Flynn Jr, in relation to the case.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey told CNN in March about an earlier meeting in September 2016 where Flynn also met the Turkish government representatives and discussed ways to send a foe of Turkey’s President back to face charges in that country.
Woolsey claims that those present discussed sending Gulen back to Turkey to face charges — possibly outside the legal US extradition system. At the time, a spokesman for Flynn denied the allegation.
If proven, the alleged plan to kidnap the cleric with the aid of foreign money directly violates US criminal code and could result in up to a 20-year sentence for the Flynns, according to a legal analyst.
The Mueller investigation into the Flynns is part of an overall probe into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia.
Flynn is also under legal scrutiny by Mueller’s team for undisclosed lobbying that he did during the presidential campaign on behalf of the Turkish government, according to sources familiar with the matter.