NASA Scientist Still Being Held In Turkish Prison As Spy


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Turkey has been holding a NASA scientist in prison for nearly a year on accusations he is a U.S. spy, according to a journalist who was imprisoned with him.

NASA physicist Serkan Golge, a dual citizen of Turkey and the U.S., was in Turkey visiting family during the July 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish authorities arrested Golge and accused him of being a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The evidence against him? His NASA ID card and a single dollar bill authorities found at his family’s home.

Journalist Lindsey Snell was locked up in the cell directly above Golge’s in the wake of the failed coup and also accused of being a CIA agent. But Snell was eventually released from prison while Golge was not.

Golge told Snell his experience “felt like death” when he was in solitary confinement and subject to almost daily interrogations.

Golge worked at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va. His research involved using polarized beams to study how subatomic particles interact, as well as measuring antimatter. Golge’s wife and their two children are currently trapped in Turkey by a travel ban.

Golge is just one of many Turkish-American dual citizens who have been arrested and accused of being CIA agents. The U.S. has said little about this, but the latest Department of State travel warning says “Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, have become more common.”

In July 2016, the Turkish army tried to seize power in the coup and even flew warplanes over the Turkish capital of Ankara and blockaded roads in Istanbul with tanks, but the coup failed. The military cited increased autocratic rule by Erdoğan and increased terrorism for the coup.

The Turkish government attributed the coup to Fethullah Gülen, a powerful Islamic cleric who fled to Pennsylvania in 1999. However, international intelligence agencies aren’t buying it.

Since the coup attempt, the government arrested more than 45,000 for alleged links to Gülen. Erdogan and state-run Turkish meida has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. government is both harboring Gülen and was involved in the coup attempt. The dollar bill is allegedly a  membership card marking Golge as one of Gülen’s loyal followers.

Many Turkish lawyers were arrested after the coup attempt, and as a result Golge has had problems securing legal representation.

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