U.S. NASA scientist says Turkey’s sentence based on “garbage” terrorism charges

U.S. citizen and Nasa scientist Serkan Gölge, who served three years in a Turkish jail, said Turkey failed to deal justly with the failed coup, calling the terrorism accusations against him “garbage.”

“That was a collapse psychologically, and I cried a lot,” Gölge told the Independent, recalling the court verdict, which cited his possession of U.S. dollar bill as sufficient evidence in his sentencing.

The former NASA scientist was arrested on July 23, 2016, shortly after Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) fended off an attempted coup by factions in the Turkish military, and released on May 29, 2019.

Gölge received a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence in February 2018 for membership of the Gülen religious movement, which the AKP blames for orchestrating the coup attempt, but the initial sentence was reduced to five years by a court in late 2019, and he was released for the time he served.

Golge was stopped at the airport in Turkey, the country of his birth, shortly after the failed coup and detained on suspicion of being a CIA employee.

The Turkish government alleged a U.S. one dollar bill was an evidence of being a member of the Gülen movement.

“A $1 bill, an anonymous tip, a bank account? How is this terrorism?” Gölge asked. “Nobody could explain, but I think this is how laws and courts still work in Turkey.”

The scientist ended up in solitary confinement for three years and was released following high-level bargaining attempts between Ankara and Washington.

Gölge condemned the coup attempt and said he had nothing to do with the Gülen movement.

“I am not part of this organisation,” he said. “I am very sorry for the people who lost their lives. This is something unacceptable. Violence is never a solution. I have always believed in democracy, and I think currently it is the best solution we have.”

Some 70,000 people were accused of having connection to the failed coup. Erdoğan blamed Fethullah Gülen, a U.S. based cleric in plotting coup against him. The Turkish media also blamed the U.S. government masterminding the plot saying both coordinated the July 2016 events that killed 250 people.

Senior military officers and many more still charged in leading and being part of the coup. Thousands in jail, many of them political opponents to Erdoğan and outspoken journalists, had no connection to the events but were still prosecuted.

Golge said the Turkish judges knew the case against him was “garbage” but “were scared of something.”

In June, Gölge left Turkey for Houston, where he is trying to rebuild his life.

“Your life – four years, three years in prison – will not come back,” he told the Independent.