ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish-American former NASA scientist Serkan Golge, newly released from jail in Turkey, said on Thursday he would like to go back to the United States and get his job back, but the terms of his probation won’t allow it.
Earlier this year Golge was found guilty of being a member of an armed terrorist organisation and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. His release on Wednesday gave fresh hope for an easing of tensions between Turkey and the United States.
The NATO allies are at odds over a range of issues including Syria policy, the U.S. refusal to extradite a Turkish cleric, Turkey’s plans to buy Russian missile systems, cases against U.S. consulate employees and a threat of sanctions against Ankara.
Golge’s sentence was later cut to five years by an appeals court and he was found guilty of aiding a terrorist organisation rather than being a member of one.
“…following this decision I was eligible to be released on probational basis,” Golge told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
“This requires me to go to a police station and give a signature and unfortunately not to be able to leave the country and go back to the United States.”
Golge was visiting family in southern Turkey when he was arrested in a sweeping crackdown that followed a failed military coup in 2016. He has always denied the charges against him.
The government blames the coup attempt on supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States. Gulen has denied involvement.
Strained ties with Washington have contributed to investor fears that have seen Turkey’s lira currency plunge.
Washington had been urging Turkey to release Golge and other detainees held since the crackdown. His release and a phone call between President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump helped lira firm on Thursday.
“…At least I can say there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Golge said.
“The only thing I want right now is to be able to go back to the U.S. and start working at NASA again as a scientist.”
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Ros Russell)