NASA Scientist Held in Turkey Denied Bail Yet Again

NASA scientist Serkan Golge was working on getting astronauts to Mars at Johnson Space Center before he got swept up in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.
NASA scientist Serkan Golge was working on getting astronauts to Mars at Johnson Space Center before he got swept up in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Photo courtesy of Kubra Golge

At this point it's not exactly a surprise that Serkan Golge, a 37-year-old physicist and U.S.-Turkish dual citizen who has been held in Turkey for more than a year on charges of his alleged involvement in the failed coup last year, was once again denied bail at his latest hearing on Friday.

Golge, who works as a senior researcher at NASA's Johnson Space Center, is one of at least seven American citizens who were swept up in the aftermath of the failed coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey in July 2016.

Golge and his wife, Kubra, both Turkish-American dual citizens, had gone home with their two young sons to visit their family in Turkey in June 2016, and while they were rattled by the uprising from military officials that subsequently led thousands of supporters of Erdogan to take to the streets and prevent the coup, the couple thought that since they were soon to return home to Houston and were not politically involved, they would be safe, as we reported in our August cover story.

Erdogan and officials in his government began arresting people shortly after the coup, accusing them of either being involved in the coup attempt directly or of supporting Fethullah Gulen, a cleric, founder and leader of the Gulenist movement in Turkey, a loosely organized entity that Erdogan contends was behind the bid to oust him from power. Erdogan claims that the more than 50,000 who have been arrested, and more than 150,000 suspended from work since the failed coup, all have clear ties to the uprising, claims that analysts have found questionable, since many people were picked up by police on the thinnest of allegations.

The day the family was due to leave to return to Houston, police officers came for Golge.

Golge's wife and friends have maintained throughout this ordeal that Golge was not political and that he was only arrested because of a false tip from an angry relative to local police and the discovery of a single U.S. one dollar bill at his family's home in Turkey when police searched the house a second time the day they arrived at the Golge family's doorstep in July 2016.

The police detained Golge and subsequently charged him with various crimes, claiming that he was a follower of Fethullah Gülen — the Islamic cleric who started a popular modernist movement of Islam in Turkey, a former political ally Erdogan has subsequently blamed for the coup — and that Golge was a spy for the CIA. He has been in Turkish custody ever since, only allowed to see his wife and two young sons once a week and kept mostly in solitary confinement, according to his wife.

Each time he has been up for a hearing — and the hearings have been held every few weeks for months now — the court has found some reason to continue looking at the case and to keep Golge from being released, but there was some reason for hope this might change this time around.

After a tense moment between the United States and Turkey, the longtime U.S. ally, the two sides were making moves to patch things up as of last month. A U.S. Consulate representative was even allowed to visit Golge after months of previous requests for access to him and other U.S. citizens being held in Turkey had been denied or ignored. There were even reports that the Turkish Ministry of Justice had requested Golge's case files for a closer review.

However, none of this has resulted in Golge actually being released according to Kubra. Instead, it is now on to the next hearing, which is scheduled to be held January 5. The only upside? Solitary confinement is still unpleasant, but there is at least one benefit to it. So many people have been arrested in the past year the regular jail cells are crammed with people while Golge is alone all the time but he still has more personal space.
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray