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US says ‘deeply concerned’ about conviction of NASA scientist Gölge

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US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a press briefing on Thursday that the United States is deeply concerned about the conviction earlier in the day of Serkan Gölge on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Gölge, a dual US-Turkish citizen and a senior NASA researcher, has been held for 18 months in İskenderun Prison after being detained in Hatay province while on a family visit on allegations of being a CIA agent and a follower of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

“… we’d like to say the United States is deeply concerned by the February 8th conviction without credible evidence of US citizen Serkan Gölge for being a member of a terror organization. We will continue to follow his case closely along with those of other US citizens whose ongoing prosecution under the state of emergency raises serious concerns about respect for judicial independence, protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution, including an individual’s right to a fair trial. The safety of US citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey remains a concern. He was arrested … in July of 2017. He’s a NASA scientist …. We’d like to call on the Turkish government to end the protracted state of emergency, to release those detained arbitrarily under emergency authorities and to safeguard the rule of law consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments,” she said.

The prosecutor submitted as evidence in the case a statement by an anonymous informant, a Bank Asya bank account belonging to Gölge and a one dollar bill found in his brother’s room. Dollar bills are considered by the Turkish government to be a secret sign of connections to Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the coup attempt in Turkey, a charge he strongly denies.

Gölge denied in an Oct. 13 hearing that the one dollar bill belonged to him. Regarding the account in a bank linked to the Gülen movement, he said he has accounts in other banks as well, including Kuveyt Turk, as he prefers whichever bank pays the highest interest. Gölge denied membership in the “FETÖ” organization, a derogatory term used by the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regime to refer to the Gülen movement.

Gölge went to the US to do a Ph.D. in physics in 2003 and settled there. Before his arrest, he had been working as a senior researcher at NASA as part of a project of landing humans on the moon. Gölge has been kept in solitary confinement in Iskenderun Prison in southern Turkey for over a year.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016 under a state of emergency declared following the coup attempt. The interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. The following day the Justice Ministry said 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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