Freed Turkish-American scientist vows to clear name

Freed Turkish-American scientist vows to clear name

A former Turkish-American NASA scientist, detained in Turkey for nearly three years until his release last week, told AFP in an interview that he would do everything he could to clear his name.

The arrest of Serkan Golge — who took US citizenship in 2010 and has worked for NASA in Houston since 2013 — is just one of a number of incidents that have caused relations between Washington and Ankara to deteriorate sharply in recent years.

US consulate staff, journalists and even an American pastor have all been detained, accused of having ties with Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is in exile in the US and whose extradition Ankara has requested over his alleged role in the failed July 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Pastor Andrew Brunson was released in October 2018. 

Golge, 39, was initially sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in July 2016, but then saw it reduced to five years before finally being released on probation last week.

In an interview at his parents’ home in Antakya, southern Turkey, he said people tended to believe there must be something to the charges if a NASA scientist is detained for so long.

But “I will give you an answer straight out: there was nothing,” he insisted.

Golge said he was arrested on an “anonymous tip”, of which there were many in the months following the coup attempt.

Vowing to take his case to both Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, Golge pledged to “do whatever I have to do to fulfil my obligations” in the meantime.

These included reporting to police four days a week and not leaving Antakya.

Nevertheless, the scientist is hoping that the restrictions will be lifted so that he can “go back to the US and get back to my work” as part of a team studying the impact of space radiation on astronauts.