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American NASA scientist held by Erdogan, Turkish media says

An American NASA scientist is being held in Turkey in connection with last month's attempted coup, according to a Turkish media report.

Serkan Golge, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested in Hatay province while visiting relatives last month, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

"We have seen the same reports, but cannot comment due to privacy concerns," a State Department spokesman told AMI Newswire.

Golge was born in Turkey and attended school there before moving to the United States to pursue higher education, Hurriyet reported. When Golge was younger, he attended a school that was linked to the Gulen movement, the governor of Hatay Province reportedly said when announcing Golge's arrest. The scientist was arrested on suspicion of supporting Gulen, the paper said.

Gulen is a reference to Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, a 75-year-old Turkish imam and political figure who is blamed for orchestrating the July 15 attempted coup against Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen has been living in the United States since 1999, and has denied orchestrating the coup.

Since July 16, when Erdogan regained control of Turkey, the government has arrested thousands of people on suspicion of being tied to Gulen. Suspected conspirators have included judges, academics, and journalists.

The NASA scientist Golge fell into the cross-hairs last month while on a regular visit to family in Turkey, a physics association reported.

A neighbor of the Golge family allegedly told authorities the scientist was a spy for the CIA, the American Institute of Physics reported in its publication, Physics Today. Golge subsequently was arrested.

Former colleagues at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, where Golge performed research, expected him to return to the United States on July 24, but have not heard from him since July 20, Physics Today reported. The former colleagues have rallied in hopes of securing Golge's release.

A LinkedIn page for a man named Serkan Golge and whose photo matches other published pictures of the missing man reflects a scientist interested in astronaut health.

"One of the major limitations of a long-term manned space mission is an increase in cancer risk due to the radiation exposure of the flight crew to the radiation in free space, such as the Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR)," Golge wrote on LinkedIn. "I am part of a team that develops the GCR model used by NASA to model the GCR flux in free-space."

In addition to studying the effects of radiation on astronauts, Golge has worked on a number of projects related to nuclear physics. He lists himself as being affiliated with the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The missing scientist obtained both his masters and doctoral degrees in physics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and conducted postdoctoral research at North Carolina Central University in Durham.

When queried by AMI Newswire, the Johnson Space Center referred this reporter to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The headquarters did not respond to an inquiry.

The Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. did not respond to repeated requests for information.