ISTANBUL, TURKEY—Serkan Golge, a Turkish-American research scientist at NASA in Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 7.5 years in a Turkish prison Thursday on terrorism charges. The verdict, which has been condemned by the U.S. government, has put his career on hold and left his family and friends reeling. “I feel like this cannot be real,” his wife Kubra Golge, who was inside the courtroom when her husband’s verdict was read, tells Science.
At a press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said the United States is “deeply concerned” by Golge’s conviction, which came “without credible evidence.” The spokesperson said the U.S. government would continue to follow his case closely. A spokesperson for Turkey’s foreign ministry dismissed the criticism in a statement posted to its website and said the court’s decision must be respected.
Golge, a dual citizen who had been studying the effects of radiation on astronauts, was swept up in a crackdown that followed Turkey’s 2016 failed military coup. While visiting family in southern Turkey weeks after the putsch attempt, police showed up to his parents’ home and arrested him in front of his wife and children. According to Golge’s wife, a distant relative who was angered over an inheritance dispute told police Golge was a spy and supporter of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic cleric who Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup.