NASA Scientist Returned to the US After Four Years of Imprisonment

Serkan Golge, a 40-year old NASA scientist who was arrested in Turkey shortly after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, safely returned to the United States with his family on June 29, 2020, more than seven months after President Trump stated that an agreement for his release was secured.

Mr. Golge was among the 20 American citizens who have been imprisoned in or prevented from leaving Turkey after the failed coup. The US authorities requested his release along with the Pastor Andrew Brunson in 2018; however it only resulted in the reduction of Mr. Golge’s sentence and his transfer to house arrest in May 2019. His movements were monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet and he had to sign in at the local police station four times a week. Turkish law enforcement officials removed his ankle bracelet hours before the news briefing with Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan at the White House in November 2019, but gave no indication why, Mr. Golge said to The New York Times. The last judicial controls were finally lifted in April 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had unprecedentedly slowed down international air traffic and almost completely stopped cross-border mobility since March, Golge and his family could not return to the US before late July.

Mr. Golge, 40, a naturalized U.S. citizen with Turkish origin, holds a Ph.D. in physics and worked on preparations for NASA’s Mars mission. During his imprisonment in Turkey, NASA had to terminate his employment, yet following his release and return to the US, his contract has been immediately reinstated and he will soon return to work. Golge’s case is still pending a final appeal at Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is happy to share the release of Serkan Golge, but remain deeply concerned about other academics, who are still imprisoned or facing travel bans and other legal restrictions in Turkey due to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of speech and association, the conduct of which are expressly protected under international agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. We condemn the Turkish government’s actions, which irreversibly harm the entire educational community by undermining universities’ abilities to meet scientific and ethical standards as well as to fulfill intellectual, educational, social, and institutional responsibilities.

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