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Johnson Space Center Scientist Denied Bail in Turkey

Serkan Golge, a scientist who was working on getting astronauts to Mars, has been held in Turkey since last July.
Serkan Golge, a scientist who was working on getting astronauts to Mars, has been held in Turkey since last July.
Photo courtesy of Kubra Golge

Serkan Golge, a 37-year-old American scientist employed at the Johnson Space Center who has made his home in Houston the past three years, got a hearing on Tuesday, but once again the judges denied his request to be released on bail.

Golge has been held in Turkey since last summer and has spent more than seven months in solitary confinement, because of vague accusations and a single American $1 bill, as we've reported. He was one of thousands of people arrested in Turkey in the wake of a failed coup to depose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July.

Last summer, shortly after the attempted coup, Serkan and his wife, Kubra Golge, were packing up to return to Houston when the police arrived at his parents’ house, searched their belongings and arrested Serkan. A few hours later the police came back, searched the house again and ultimately found a dollar bill in a memory box stored in the old bedroom of Serkan's brother.

Turkish prosecutors claim that Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Erdogan blames for the coup, gave his followers blessed $1 bills. Possession of such a bill is now used as evidence of membership in a terrorist organization in Turkey. Authorities have continued to insist the dollar bill belongs to Serkan even though it wasn't found in the room where he and Kubra were staying.

Since then, Serkan has been in Turkish custody as he has endured rounds of court appearances and hearings. An initial allegation that Serkan was a CIA agent has been dropped, but the charge about the dollar bill has stuck.

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Meanwhile, Serkan has languished in jail while he awaits trial. He has grown thin, his wife says, and he landed in the hospital for three days because of kidney stones. Kubra was not told about her husband's hospitalization until he had already been returned to jail.

She still hoped that the hearing on Tuesday might result in his release, even just on bail, but that was quickly nixed. "Serkan said he wanted bail, he demanded it since the government has frozen our bank account. He said he can't do anything because of that so he should be released," Kubra said.

At this point, Kubra says she's emotionally exhausted. "I feel like my emotions are starting to freeze," she says. "I start to laugh sometimes, and to yell a lot. I'm sad, I feel anger. I don't know where I am or what my emotions are anymore."

Serkan's next hearing is scheduled for July 19.

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