October 17, 2018 / 12:01 PM / in 2 months

After pastor's release, U.S. presses Turkey on ex-NASA scientist, other detainees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urged Turkey to release a Turkish-U.S. citizen and former NASA scientist, among other detainees, days after Ankara turned over U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to the media before leaving Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Pompeo raised the issue with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a meeting in Ankara, where he also met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, vanished during a visit to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to collect marriage documents.

“The Secretary also discussed with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu the continued wrongful detention of Dr. Serkan Golge and other U.S. citizens as well as locally employed staff from  U.S. Mission Turkey,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement

Golge was visiting family in southern Turkey when he was arrested in a crackdown following a failed military coup in 2016 which the government blamed on supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

He has denied the charges. His sentence last month was reduced to five years.

Turkey has detained 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants over suspected links to the coup attempt, according to the U.N. human rights office.

U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained over the detentions as well as other issues, and the United States has imposed sanctions and tariffs on Ankara.

Pastor Brunson, whose detention fueled a diplomatic crisis that sent the lira tumbling this year, had also been charged with terrorism offences. He was released on Friday and returned to the United States.

On Wednesday, Brunson’s lawyer said he was appealing the verdict and sentence in Turkish court.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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