Serkan Gölge, a Turkish-American scientist imprisoned in Turkey for nearly three years due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was released from jail on Wednesday but is unable to return to his job at NASA as he is restricted from traveling outside Turkey.
Speaking to reporters at his family home in Antakya on Thursday, Gölge said US consular officials called him following his release on Wednesday and his lawyer told him he was subject to a travel ban because he was released from prison on probation.
Gölge was detained on July 23, 2016 as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. He was arrested after being kept in police custody for 14 days. In February 2018 a Turkish court in Hatay province handed down a prison sentence of seven years, six months on charges of membership in a “terrorist” organization.
Regarding the prospects of his returning to his job at NASA, Gölge said: “NASA waited for me for one-and-a-half years, but when my release did not take place, they had to fire me. But they left the door open, saying, ‘If you return [to the US], we would certainly want to employ you again.’ Now I face a travel ban, I don’t know whether it can be lifted.”
Citing a copy of the court ruling, Reuters reported that Gölge was freed due to time served.
In September 2018, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals reduced the prison sentence given to Gölge to five years.
The prosecution presented Gölge’s possession of a one dollar bill, which is claimed to be used by the Gülen movement to send coded messages, and possession of an account at Bank Asya, which was closed by the government over its alleged links to the movement, as evidence against him during the trial.
A relative also testified against him. Kübra Gölge, Serkan’s wife, said relations had soured with this relative over an inheritance dispute. His conviction in February 2018 came after 18 months in pre-trial detention, during which Gölge was denied access to the US Consulate.