President Trump spoke to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, and the call appears to have gone well: Hours later, Serkan Golge, a Turkish-American former NASA scientist, was abruptly released from prison after more than two years. Golge, one of more than a dozen Americans detained after a failed coup in 2016, was sentenced to more than seven years on terrorism charges in Feb. 2018, which was later reduced to five years on appeal, the New York Times reports. Golge was visiting family in southern Turkey with his family when he was detained on charges that his lawyers say were baseless. His wife and two young children have not been allowed to leave Turkey.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere says Trump and Erdogan discussed "a number of bilateral issues," including trade and tariffs. Some 70,000 people arrested in a crackdown after the coup attempt are still behind bars, and the detention of American citizens and three Turkish employees of American consulates has been a major source of friction between the US and Turkey. According to a verdict seen by Reuters, a Turkish appeals court upheld Golge's sentence for aiding a terrorist organization, but commuted his sentence to time served. Under the terms of release, he is not allowed to leave the country and will have to regularly report to local authorities. (In October, Turkey released an American pastor who was accused of belonging to the movement led by alleged coup orchestrator Fethullah Gulen.)