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US officials to visit Turkish-American NASA researcher jailed in Turkey

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US consular officials were given permission to visit Turkish-American dual citizen and NASA researcher Serkan Gölge, who has been held for 15 months in İskenderun Prison, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.

According to the report the US Embassy said it had been given access to Gölge for the first time since his incarceration, on Oct. 17.

The embassy was also asked by T24 if they had visited other prisoners connected to them including Hamza Ulucay, a local employee of the US Consulate in Adana, and American pastor Andrew Brunson. The embassy reportedly said that “[we] have been given permission to pay visits to all US citizens [in Turkish prisons].”

US Consulate in Adana Principal Officer Linda Specht was present as an observer at a hearing in Gölge’s case on Oct. 13.

Gölge went to the US to do a Ph.D. in physics in 2003 and settled there. Last year when he came with his wife and children to the southern Turkish province of Hatay to visit his family, he was detained on allegations of being a CIA agent and a follower of the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

The prosecutor has submitted as evidence in the case a statement by an anonymous informant, a Bank Asya bank account belonging to Gölge and a one dollar bill found in his brother’s room. Dollar bills are considered by the Turkish government to be a secret sign of connections to Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the coup attempt in Turkey, a charge he strongly denies.

Gölge denied in his Oct. 13 hearing that the one dollar bill belonged to him. Regarding the account in a bank linked to the Gülen movement, he said he has accounts in other banks as well, including Kuveyt Turk, as he prefers whichever bank pays the highest interest. Gölge denied membership in the “FETÖ” organization, a derogatory term used by the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regime to refer to the Gülen movement.

Before his arrest, Gölge had been working as a senior researcher at NASA as part of a project of landing humans on the moon. Gölge has been kept in solitary confinement in Iskenderun Prison in southern Turkey for a year.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 civil servants, including governors, judges, prosecutors, teachers, soldiers and police, since July 15 through government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency.

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