After Brunson’s release, US presses Turkey on ex-NASA scientist, other detainees

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Serkan Gölge, research scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to release dual Turkish-US citizen and former NASA scientist Serkan Gölge, among other detainees, days after Ankara freed American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.

Pompeo raised the issue with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in a meeting in Ankara, where he also met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US State Department said in a statement.

Khashoggi, a US resident, vanished during a visit to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to collect marriage documents.

“The Secretary also discussed with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu the continued wrongful detention of Dr. Serkan Golge and other U.S. citizens as well as locally employed staff from U.S. Mission Turkey,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement

Gölge was visiting family in southern Turkey when he was arrested in a crackdown following a failed military coup in 2016 which the government blamed on supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

He has denied the charges. His sentence last month was reduced to five years.

In addition to Gölge, three US consulate employees were also arrested in 2017 and 2018 over alleged Gülen links. Pompeo met with the families of the detainees during this visit to Turkey.

Turkey has detained more than 160,000 people as part of a post-coup crackdown on dissidents and dismissed over 140,000 public servants on terrorism charges.

US-Turkish relations have been strained over the detentions, and the United States has imposed sanctions and tariffs on Ankara.

Pastor Brunson, whose detention fueled a diplomatic crisis that sent the lira tumbling this year, had also been charged with terrorism offenses. He was released on Friday and returned to the United States.

On Wednesday, Brunson’s lawyer said he was appealing the verdict and sentence in a Turkish court.

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