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NASA Scientist, Detained in Turkey for decades, Returns to U.S.

ISTANBUL — An American NASA scientist returned along with his family to the United States early Tuesday morning after almost four decades of imprisonment and house arrest in Turkey, and over seven weeks following President Trump said he’d procured an agreement for his release.

The scientist, Serkan Golge, arrived in Washington on a commercial flight soon after midnight, ending a yearlong trip for him and his loved ones, who was trapped in more fraught Turkish-American connections.

Mr. Trump’s public relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have conducted a roller coaster from warm expressions of friendship to volatile dangers on Twitter to ruin the Turkish market .

In a White House briefing at November with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Trump declared that Mr. Golge will be heading home and thanked his Turkish counterpart for releasing Mr. Golge from detention, although he stayed under judicial management for many more months.

“This was a really wonderful tribute,” Mr. Trump said in November. “He will be coming back at a certain stage in the not too distant future. That is really good news for the United States and also very good news for Turkey.”

Mr. Erdogan didn’t mention Mr. Golge in their own remarks at that information briefing.

Mr. Golge’s case, combined with people of an American leader, Andrew Brunson, that had been held for a couple of decades, and three Turkish workers of U.S. consulates, among whom had been sentenced to over eight years in prison this month, were observed by U.S. and European officials as a type of hostage-taking for leverage.

Mr. Erdogan’s government has desired several court cases in the USA contrary to Turkish officials, possibly implicating Mr. Erdogan and his loved ones, to be lost. 1 such scenario, between a state-owned lender accused of assisting Iran evade sanctions, remains pending.

Ties between the USA and Turkey, apparently NATO allies, have been severely frayed as an attempted coup from Mr. Erdogan at July 2016. One of those involved in the coup were followers of a U.S.-based Muslim preacher, Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish authorities describes as the major instigator, and it’s demanded his extradition, so far to no avail.

Turkey subsequently went forward with the purchase price of a Russian antiaircraft missile system, even though NATO warnings that working such a system was incompatible with membership in the alliance. Mr. Trump reacted by canceling the purchase of innovative F-35 jets to Turkey.

The connection reached a new low in October, together with Mr. Erdogan’s invasion of northeastern Syria, an offensive against U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces which risked direct battle with American troops and threatened to sabotage the struggle against the Islamic State.

Not one of these problems were solved in the discussions in November, leaving the launch of Mr. Golge since the only concrete accomplishment of this assembly.

Mr. Golge was one up to 20 American taxpayers who were imprisoned or averted from departing the nation in a crackdown from the Turkish authorities following the unsuccessful coup. Over 100,000 individuals in total were arrested, some for immediate participation in the coup but many more on the flimsiest evidence, accused of participation with Mr. Gulen’s movement.

Mr. Golge, 40, a naturalized U.S. citizen, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Old Dominion University. He lived near Houston and’d worked on preparations for NASA’s Mars mission.

He had been arrested in July 2016 while seeing his parents in southern Turkey and has been accused of being a member of the Gulen movement — he insists he’s not — that the government calls a terrorist organization.

The sole evidence of the institution that was produced in his trial was that he’d held an account in Bank Asya, which had been connected into the motion, which a $1 bill had been discovered in his parents’ home, allegedly a key indication of membership.

Mr. Golge’s spouse, Kubra, along with his two kids, all American citizens, were barred from leaving Turkey.

Mr. Trump was pushing Mr. Erdogan to get Mr. Golge’s launch for at least a year. He had been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for terrorism charges, but was discharged from prison in May 2019. Mr. Trump declared then that Mr. Golge was being transferred from prison to house custody and could be permitted back to the United States”pretty soon.”

But Turkish officials responded to this statement by raising judicial controls regarding his house arrest, based on Mr. Golge. Police officers at a parked automobile were posted out his house round the clock for a couple of weeks and followed him if he stepped out.

He had been fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet to track his moves and had to enroll at the local police station four times every week, a regime which was afterwards reduced to two and then once weekly. Mr. Golge’s situation remains pending a last attraction at Turkey’s Supreme Court.

Turkish law enforcement officials eliminated his arm bracelet hours prior to the information briefing with Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan in the White House in November, however, gave no indication why, Mr. Golge explained.

“I was amazed,” Mr. Golge stated on hearing Mr. Trump’s statement. However, his ordeal wasn’t over.

The past judicial controllers were just eventually improved in April, and global flights, grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic since March, just resumed this past month.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington.

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