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Judge tosses conviction against Michael Flynn's ex-lobbying partner, Bijan Rafiekian

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By Julia Ainsley and Rich Schapiro  with NBC News Politics
Image: Arraignment Hearing Of Former Michael Flynn Associate Bijan Kian
Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, right from, arrives at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on Dec. 18. 2018.   -   Copyright  Zach Gibson Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — A federal court in Virginia acquitted a former business associated of Michael Flynn on Tuesday, throwing out his July conviction by a jury on two counts of violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act during his work on behalf of Turkey.

Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the indictment against Bijan Rafiekian citing insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction on either count.

"The evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the jury to convict Rafiekian on either count," Judge Trenga wrote in his opinion, adding that a new trial would be warranted "in the interest of justice should the Court's judgment of acquittal be later vacated or reversed."

Rafiekian, sometimes referred to as Kian, came to the attention of investigators in the probe into Russian interference in the U.S. electionas they collected evidence on Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser. Flynn is awaiting sentencing on charges stemming from lying to investigators about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions.

Kian and Flynn worked together prior to Flynn joining the administration as part of the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, NBC News reported.

Their work, which included efforts to see an elderly Muslim cleric extradited from the United States to face charges in Turkey, was not properly disclosed to the Justice Department.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in response to the judge's decision on Tuesday, "The U.S. Attorney's Office is reviewing the Court's opinion vacating the jury's verdict in the Rafiekian matter. We do not have any further comment at this time."