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)


Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

Updated 19 July 2018
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Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

  • A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Thursday dropped extradition requests for six politicians wanted on rebellion charges
  • Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest after the Spanish government removed him and his Cabinet from office at the end of October

MADRID: A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Thursday dropped extradition requests for six politicians wanted on rebellion charges for their roles in promoting independence for Spain’s Catalonia region, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.
The decision was a major setback for Spain’s legal efforts to crack down on the wealthy Catalan region’s secessionist movement and keeps alive an issue that last year brought Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest after the Spanish government removed him and his Cabinet from office at the end of October. He was arrested in Germany in March as he was traveling from Finland to Brussels and is believed to be living in Hamburg.
The Spanish judge withdrew his extradition requests after a German court ruled last week that Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, only for the lesser charge of embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for holding a referendum on secession that a judge had disallowed.
Puigdemont said the decision exposed “huge shortcomings” in the Supreme Court’s legal case against the separatists, including nine who are in Spanish jails awaiting possible trial and whom the separatist movement regards as victims of political persecution.
“Today is a day to demand, with greater fervor than ever, freedom for the political prisoners,” Puigdemont tweeted after Llarena’s decision.
Judge Pablo Llarena was scathing in his assessment of the German court’s decision, describing it as “a lack of commitment” in pursuing the fugitives. Llarena wants Puigdemont and his separatist allies to face charges of rebellion and sedition, as well as misuse of public funds.
If Puigdemont and the others were extradited solely for alleged embezzlement, Spanish prosecutors would be able to put them on trial just on that charge. Rebellion carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years in Spain, while misuse of public funds is punishable by up to 12 years.
Llarena said in a decision published Thursday that he was revoking the international arrest warrants for the six fugitive former officials, a development the Catalan separatist movement took as a victory against Spain’s central authorities.
The first deputy speaker of the regional parliament in Catalonia, Josep Costa, tweeted “Llarena KO.”
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, declared triumph, writing on Twitter: “It looks like we have a memorable summer.”
The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government’s unauthorized Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.
The declaration won no international recognition, but the standoff between regional powers in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, and national authorities in Madrid put Spain in the international spotlight.
A German court last week said Spain’s rebellion charge was not recognized in Germany and that related German statutes — such as the law against treason — did not apply because Puigdemont’s actions “did not rise to this kind of violence.”
If the six fugitive politicians return to Spain voluntarily, they would still face rebellion and sedition charges.
The other fugitive politicians apart from Puigdemont are Antoni Comin, Meritxell Serret and Lluis Puig, who also fled to Belgium, Clara Ponsati, who is in Scotland, and Marta Rovira, who is believed to be in Switzerland.