Physics Today: NASA scientist detained in Turkey

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A NASA physicist has been arrested and detained in Turkey in the aftermath of the failed 15 July coup, according to Turkish media outlets and evidence from multiple sources. Serkan Golge, a 36-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, is accused of involvement with the Gülen movement, which president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds responsible for the attempt to overthrow the government.

According to Physics Today, Golge arrived in Turkey in late June to spend time with family. According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous, Golge was accused of spying for the CIA by a person in the neighborhood where the family lives. Over the past month, Erdoğan and other government officials have accused the US of supporting the attempted coup. Ercan Topaca, governor of the Hatay province in southern Turkey, announced the arrest to the state-run press agency Anadolu on or around 6 August.

A US State Department official said the agency is aware of reports that an American citizen was detained in Turkey but would not comment further due to privacy concerns. Other State Department contacts told Bill Jones, chair of the Turkey coordination group at Amnesty International USA, that the consular section in Turkey is aware of the case and working on it. The University of Houston, which employs Golge through a contract with NASA, confirmed that he has missed work.

Jones says he knows of no other reports of American citizens detained in Turkey since the failed coup. Golge has been a US citizen since at least 2010; it’s unclear whether he also has Turkish citizenship. The Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Golge’s colleagues at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, where he performed his graduate and postdoctoral research, say they have not heard from him since 20 July. Alicia Hofler, a computer scientist at Jefferson Lab, says Golge wrote that he was in Antakya, the provincial capital city of Hatay, but hoped to return to the US on 24 July. Last week, after not receiving responses to several emails, Hofler searched for Golge’s name online and saw a tweet and news reports about his alleged detainment.

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