Turkey releases detained NASA scientist Serkan Golge | News | DW | 29.05.2019
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Turkey releases detained NASA scientist Serkan Golge

Turkey has released US-Turkish scientist Serkan Golge from jail, a move that could help ease relations with Washington. The former NASA researcher is one of thousands detained in a Turkish government crackdown.

The US State Department announced Wednesday that Serkan Golge, who Turkish prosecutors claimed belonged to a terrorist organization, has been released from prison.

Golge's nearly three-year detention — along with that of several other US citizens — has soured relations between Ankara and Washington. Golge was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in 2018, despite State Department objections that he was convicted without any credible evidence.

"We welcome the news that Serkan Golge has been released from prison today," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

"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 Turkey on terrorism charges.

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A role in Mars project

Before his arrest, Golge had worked as a full-time contractor on NASA's proposed mission to Mars. As part of the evidence against him, prosecutors had claimed to present links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. These included the presence of a US $1 bill in his apartment, the fact that he had an account at a bank linked with the Gulen movement and that he had studied at a university linked to the Gulen movement.

Read more: Turkey holds thousands in solitary in Erdogan's prisons

Turkey's government claims the Gulen movement is connected with a failed coup attempt in 2016, after which Ankara launched a sweeping crackdown. There are currently more than 30,000 people with alleged links to the Gulen movement in Turkish prisons, including judges, academics and journalists.

Last year, despite being NATO allies, Turkey and the US imposed tit-for-tat sanctions on each other's high-level officials over the detention of US Christian pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson was arrested on espionage and terrorism-related charges, but was released in October and returned to the US.

rc/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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