Mueller probing alleged Flynn plan to deliver cleric to Turkey, says WSJ

Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. (REUTERS File Photo)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Mueller probing alleged Flynn plan to deliver cleric to Turkey, says WSJ

WASHINGTON: Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether US President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was involved in an alleged plan to seize a Muslim cleric and deliver him to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Under the plan, Flynn, who was fired by Trump after just 24 days in the job, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to receive up to $15 million for forcibly removing Fethullah Gulen from his US home and delivering him to the Turkish government, people familiar with the investigation told the Journal.
The alleged plan emerged during Mueller’s wider investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion by the Trump campaign.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen of instigating a failed coup in July 2016 and wants him extradited to Turkey to face trial. Gulen has denied any role in the coup.
A spokesman for Mueller’s team declined to comment on the report on Friday.
Flynn is a central figure in Mueller’s investigation because of conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year and because he waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did for a Turkish businessman.
The Journal reported that FBI agents asked at least four people about a December meeting in New York where Flynn and Turkish government representatives discussed removing Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries.
The December meeting about Gulen was also reported Friday by NBC, which cited people familiar with the probe. The group also discussed how to set free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab. Zarrab is in prison in the United States on federal charges that he helped Iran skirt US sanctions, NBC said.
A Reuters report on Oct. 26 said one of Flynn’s business associates, former CIA Director James Woolsey, pitched a $10 million contract to two Turkish businessmen to help discredit Gulen while Woolsey was an adviser to Trump’s election campaign.
Woolsey was a member of Flynn’s firm, the Flynn Intel Group, according to a Justice Department filing by the firm and an archive of the company’s website.
Mueller’s team has also interviewed White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the highest-level Trump aide known to have spoken with investigators, CNN reported on Thursday. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu)


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 36 min 14 sec ago
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”