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Turkey frees jailed NASA scientist after nearly 3 years

Turkey frees jailed NASA scientist after nearly 3 years

Turkey frees jailed NASA scientist after nearly 3 years
May 30
03:56 2019

Turkey has released a former NASA scientist after almost three years of imprisonment, the US State Department announced, hailing the move as “welcome news” amid tensions between the two countries over a range of issues.

“We welcome the news that Serkan Golge has been released from prison today,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters on Wednesday.

“We want to commend them for doing the right thing today by releasing him,” she noted.

“We will continue to follow Mr Golge's case closely along with those involving our own locally employed staff,” she added.

The measure by Turkey comes a day after US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart spoke on the phone on bilateral ties.

The 39-year-old Turkish-American citizen was arrested in 2016 while he was in Turkey to visit his family, in the aftermath of a coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Golge was initially found guilty of being a member of an armed terrorist organization earlier this year and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. But an appeals court commuted his prison term to five years after finding him guilty of assisting the terrorist organization led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of being behind the failed coup. Ankara has time and again called on Washington to extradite the opposition figure to Turkey.

Last month, two US senators introduced a bipartisan bill to impose sanctions on Turkish officials responsible for the detention of US citizens and local consulate staff in Turkey.

Turkey has ordered detention of several US citizens since the coup attempt in 2016, in which scores of people died.

In December 2016, Turkey arrested Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, on charges of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and the Gulen movement. 

The case soured relations between Turkey and the United States. Washington took a series of punitive measures against Turkey which led to a sharp decline in the country's currency.

The two countries have also locked horns over Ankara's purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

The US claims that the Russian equipment is not “compatible” with the hardware and network lying under the control of the Western military alliance of NATO, which is dominated by Washington and has Turkey as a member.

The US has also warned of tough sanctions if Turkey pursued plans to acquire S-400. Ankara, however, has said it would not go back on the deal with Russia.

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