US citizen released from Turkish prison
Dual Turkish-US citizen Serkan Golge has been released from prison in Turkey, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus announced on Wednesday.
Golge, a NASA physicist, was arrested in July 2016 and accused of having links to the Gulenist movement after a failed coup attempt that same year.
In February 2018, Golge was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, but last September, a Turkish court reduced his sentence to five years.
President Donald Trump did speak to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday but there was no mention of Golge’s release in the readout provided by the White House.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with President Erdogan of Turkey. The two leaders discussed a number of bilateral issues, including their shared desire to increase trade, the President’s decision to reduce steel tariffs on Turkey from 50 percent to 25 percent, Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, and the opportunity to continue the discussion during the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, next month,” according to the White House.
During a press briefing Wednesday, Ortagus said the US welcomes Golge’s release. She added that the US would continue to follow the case closely and commended Turkey for doing “the right thing.”
Turkey has issued several detention orders since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in which around 250 people died, many of them Turkish civilians. More than 1,400 people were injured during the chaotic night of violence.
In February, Turkey ordered the detention 1,112 people over suspected links to the failed 2016 coup which was undertaken by a faction of the military, a Ministry of Interior source told CNN at the time.
Warrants were issued to those with suspected ties to the network of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating the attempted coup, the source said.
During the events in July 2016, tanks rolled into the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey’s two largest cities. Bombs struck the parliament building in the capital and a helicopter stolen by rogue pilots was shot down by an F-16 jet.
Erdogan was hundreds of miles away at a seaside resort when the coup got underway, but by the time he addressed the nation via FaceTime hours later, it had already begun to abate.
Days later, Turkey declared a two-year state of emergency and Erdogan tightened his grip on power while overseeing a massive purge of those who he says rose up against him.
In 2017, nearly 500 people accused of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government appeared in a mass trial.
Anadolu reported at the time that Gulen was one of seven people who had been formally charged in absentia.
Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, has vehemently denied involvement in the plot. He has been described by supporters as a moderate Muslim cleric who champions interfaith dialogue.
In October, American pastor Andrew Brunson was released after being detained in Turkey for two years — charged with helping to plan the military coup against Erdogan.
A Turkish court sentenced Brunson to three years and one month in prison, but chose to release him based on his time already served, as well as his manner during the proceedings, his lawyer said. Prosecutors were seeking a 10-year jail term.
The case had soured relations between Turkey and the United States, heightened by Trump’s defense of Brunson as his administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.
CNN’s Bianca Britton and Murat Baykara contributed reporting.