ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has brushed off criticism by the United States after a NASA scientist was convicted on terrorism charges, saying he had been tried fairly and the decision of the Turkish court should be respected.
Serkan Golge, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen, was found guilty of being a member of an armed terrorist organization and was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison, private broadcaster CNNTurk reported.
“Turkish citizen Serkan Golge was tried by an independent Turkish court and sentenced after a fair trial,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement. “We expect our U.S. counterparts to respect the decisions of the independent Turkish courts.”
At his trial, Gorge was linked to Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for masterminding a failed coup in July 2016. He denied any connection to Gulen’s movement; Gulen, who lives in the United States, denies being involved in the abortive coup.
Washington expressed worry over the sentencing and the fate of other U.S. citizens who are facing prosecution under the state of emergency in Turkey.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the Feb. 8 conviction without credible evidence of U.S. citizen Serkan Golge for being a member of a terror organization,” U.S. state Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday.
Nauert also called on Ankara to end to the state of emergency in Turkey, which was imposed shortly after the coup attempt, and to release people detained arbitrarily.
Turkey and the United States suspended issuing visas last year after Washington complained about the detention of two locally hired consular employees on suspicion of a role in the failed coup. Both countries resumed issuing visas in late December 2017.
Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul and Mohammad Zargham in Washington, editing by Larry King