A Turkish-American scientist imprisoned in Turkey on terror charges for almost three years has been released by a Turkish court.
Journalist Tugba Tekerek reported in a series of tweets late on Wednesday that a Turkish court on Wednesday evening ruled for the release of Serkan Golge (37), a former NASA research scientist and physicist.
Golge was being detained in Iskenderun Prison.
Tekerek cited Kubra Golge, Golge’s wife, as the source of her information.
Golge was detained on terror charges on July 23, 2016, a week after a failed coup attempt, when he was on vacation in Turkey. He was later jailed.
On February 8, 2018, Golge was convicted for “membership of terrorist organization” by the Hatay 2nd Criminal Court and sentenced to 7 years and 6 months which was subsequently reduced to five years for “supporting terrorist organization” by an appeals court in September 2018.
Golge’s case file had for a long period been with the Court of Cassation (Yargitay) for review.
He may have been released for time already served, according to his lawyer.
The scientist denied links to the movement, and believed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had ordered his detention to use as leverage in its relations with the United States (US), Tekerek reported in 2018.
During his 14-day detention, Turkish police had asked the scientist to spy for them in the US, according to a report in 2017 by the T24 news portal, citing Golge’s lawyer.
“They asked my client during all six interrogations to tell them what he knew, and my client said he did not know anything. Then they told him ‘work for us’,” claimed the lawyer.
US welcomes release
Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman of the US State Department, confirmed and welcomed the release at a filmed press briefing, defining it as the “right thing to do.”
She, however, declined to comment on why he was released.
“We will continue to follow Mr. Golge’s case closely along with those involving our own locally employed staff in Turkey,” she said, referring to the detention of several US consulate employees and other US citizens in the country on terrorism charges since the coup attempt.
US Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested on espionage and terrorism-related charges, was released and returned to the US last October following months-long US pressure. This included sanctions, which contributed to a big slide in the value of the lira last year.
In April US lawmakers introduced a bill calling for measures to be taken against Turkey regarding the detentions of Golge and its jailing of US Consulate employees.
Crackdown on Gulen Movement widens
As Erdogan tightened his grip on power following the 2016 coup attempt, his crackdown on the movement has widened.
Erdogan claims the movement, led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in self-imposed exile since 1999, is connected with the attempted military coup.
As part of the post-coup crackdown on the movement, more than 77,000 people with alleged links to the movement have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.