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Former Nasa scientist returns to US after years of detention in Turkey

Serkan Golge arrived in Washington on Tuesday after nearly four years of imprisonment and house arrest
Ankara had accused Serkan Golge of being a member of the Gulen movement (AFP/File photo)

A former Nasa scientist has returned to the United States after nearly four years of imprisonment and house arrest in Turkey in connection with the 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Serkan Golge arrived in Washington shortly after midnight on Tuesday, according to the New York Times, seven months after US President Donald Trump said he had secured an agreement for his release.

Golge, 40, was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2016 while visiting family in the southern Hatay province, shortly after the country witnessed a failed coup attempt against Erdogan.

Ankara had accused the scientist of being a member of the Gulen movement, which the Turkish government sees as responsible for the failed coup.

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Turkish authorities have carried out a sustained crackdown on alleged followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen since 2016, with around 80,000 people jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others sacked or suspended from their jobs.

According to the New York Times, up to 20 Americans have been either detained or kept from leaving Turkey after the overthrow attempt.

Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. He denies any involvement in the attempted coup.

Erdogan has for years accused Gulen's supporters of establishing a "parallel state" by infiltrating the police, judiciary, military and other state institutions.

Turkey's western allies, including the European Union, as well as rights groups, have criticised the scale of the crackdown, while Ankara has defended the measures as a necessary response to the perceived security threat.

Earlier this month, Istanbul's prosecutor's office announced it was issuing 118 arrest warrants for individuals linked to the network accused of the attempted government overthrow.