ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A federal judge refused Thursday to delay the conspiracy trial of a former business partner of disgraced national-security adviser Michael Flynn, accused of working covertly here on behalf of the Turkish government.
The 66-year-old Bijan Kian, who pleaded not guilty last month to the charges against him, faces a trial set to begin on Feb. 11 in Alexandria, Virginia.
But during Thursday’s status conference, Kian’s defense attorney Robert Trout told U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga it may be difficult to fully prepare over the next month given the voluminous amount of evidence to obtain – and review – from foreign countries.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Gibbs and James Gillis agreed that a significant amount of evidence must be reviewed but said they could nonetheless be prepared for the speedy-trial date that Trenga set in December.
“I would like to note, this morning we turned over [to the court] discovery amounting to terabytes that we received from the special counsel’s office,” Gillis said.
Of that information, however, he said only a “limited” amount is classified.
Trout shot back: “Terabyte and speedy trial don’t belong in the same sentence.”
“We’ve received multiple hard drives and without knowing what we’re dealing with, we ask for a continuance and for a September trial date,” the defense lawyer added.
Trenga paused before delivering his ruling from the bench: the Feb. 11 trial date will remain.
In the meantime, Kian’s defense attorneys must provide the court with a list of any foreign evidence they plan to submit and whether it can be fairly disclosed to the government no later than Jan. 21.
“This is still more complicated than one might think, with such a large number of players with their fingers in the pie,” Gillis said.
A motion hearing to consider the evidence will be held on Feb. 7.
Kian was indicted on Dec. 12, along with fellow Flynn associate Ekim Alptekin. Prosecutors claim the men hid evidence from U.S. authorities which would have shown that Turkey and other high-ranking Turkish officials engaged clandestinely to direct lobbying efforts in the United States.
At the heart of their mission, prosecutors claim the men wanted to alter public perception of Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
On Thursday, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported that a U.S. delegation met with Turkish officials to discuss a possible extradition request for Gulen.
Steve Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations told Courthouse News Thursday that if Gulen were successfully extradited, it could be a major boon for US-Turkey relations.
“The Turks are outraged that he is a resident of the U.S. and to them, it is as if Turkey was harboring Osama bin Laden,” Cook said.