Updated: Apr 29, 2019
It has been over a year since Serkan Golge, a 36-year-old United States citizen of Turkish descent and physicist with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was arrested in Turkey.
On August 6, 2016, we learned that Golge was formally accused of involvement with the Gulen movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. According to one of Golge’s associates, we also learned that he has been accused of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Golge sat through several hours of questioning before being told of his alleged crime: supporting the organization of Fethullah Gulen, a one-time friend of Erdogan’s who was accused of orchestrating the attempted putsch and is now living in exile in the US.
When officers searched Mr Golge’s family home, they found a dollar bill, which has come to denote membership of the Islamic cleric’s secretive group, with their serial numbers alleged to contain coded meanings.
A Nasa security card found in his wallet was also submitted as evidence that Golge was working as an informant for the CIA.
Golge, who had been living in Houston, Texas for three years and was only on a month-long holiday in Turkey when he was arrested, has protested his innocence in court but remains behind bars, facing a 15-year jail sentence if convicted.
The case has come to symbolize the paranoid Turkish state and the rise of Erdogan’s pernicious authoritarianism, as well as the increasingly strained relations between Ankara and Washington, which has failed to secure Golge's release despite diplomatic pressure.
“We had watched the coup on TV like everyone else,” Golge's wife told The Telegraph. “If we were guilty we would have run back to America straight away, but we didn’t."
“We couldn’t ever have imagined something like this could happen. It all still feels like a sick joke,” she said.
In the last 12 months, Turkish President Erdogan has imposed an indefinite state of emergency under which he has managed to vastly extend his powers and imprison anyone he believes to be a threat to his rule.
Mass purges in academia, the judiciary, and the media have left “the nation's best and the brightest either in prison or selling bagels on the street,” as Mahir Zeynalov, a Turkish journalist deported for a tweet critical of Erdogan in 2014, puts it.
Golge's wife said that despite her husband's dual Turkish-US citizenship, he has been denied access to the US consulate.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide has been monitoring Golge’s case from the beginning by making inquiries on a daily basis in an attempt to have Golge released and to have charges against him dropped. We have been in contact with the US embassies in Turkey and have written to the Turkish authorities requesting that they release the NASA scientist. We have been told that Golge is alive, though he remains in detention and is the subject of a pending judicial case. Unfortunately, his case has not received wide media coverage in the US. Washington has put considerable pressure on Ankara to release Mr Golge, and that hat he remains in prison is a sign of the US’s waning influence over its Nato ally.
We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide consider Serkan Golge’s detention a flagrant and unjust violation of the freedom, security, and safety of a scientist who is clearly a victim of a political witch hunt —arrested without cause, held for weeks in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer, and subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the ongoing detention, persecution, and conviction of Serkan Golge and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest and condemn this arbitrary incarceration; to ask for his immediate and unconditional release; and to urge the officials of the Turkish government to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties to which Turkey has long been a signatory.