Enes Kanter is reportedly the subject of an arrest warrant issued Friday by Turkey, his home nation.
The Oklahoma City Thunder center, who spent one year at the University of Kentucky but did not play, has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and he recently expressed gratitude at being back in the United States after he was detained on an overseas trip when the country revoked his passport.
According to AFP, Sabah Daily, a Turkish newspaper described as “pro-government,” reported that Kanter is being accused of membership in a “terror group.”
Kanter, 25, has expressed support for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who is living in exile in Pennsylvania and who Erdogan blamed for a failed coup attempt last year.
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In the aftermath of that attempt in July, with which Gulen denied any involvement and condemned, Erdogan’s regime swiftly carried out a violent crackdown. Hundreds of Turks were killed, and thousands more were rounded up on suspicions of having links to the coup attempt. Kanter, among others, has alleged it was really a plot by Erdogan to enable him to strike at his political enemies and establish a more authoritarian rule over Turkey.
“You guys need to know what is going on in Turkey right now. I hope people around the world will open their eyes to the human rights abuses,” Kanter wrote this week in an essay for The Players’ Tribune. “Things have gotten very bad over the last year. This is not my opinion. We don’t know everything that is happening inside Turkey, but we do know some facts. Newspapers and media have been restricted. Academics have been fired. Peaceful protesting is not allowed. Many people have been imprisoned without any real charges. There are reports of torture and rape and worse.”
On Friday, Kanter posted to Twitter an image of the Sabah story, adding a caption in Turkish that said (per AFP’s translation), “You cannot catch me. Hahaha. Don’t waste your energy.
“I am already going to come to [Turkey] to spit on all of your ugly, hate-filled faces.”
From the AFP report:
“A judge issued the arrest warrant after an Istanbul prosecutor opened an investigation into Kanter’s alleged “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” Sabah Daily reported. …
The arrest warrant refers to Kanter’s alleged use of an encrypted messaging application called Bylock, Sabah said, which Turkey claims was especially created for Gulen supporters.
It also referred to Kanter’s “praise for a terror organization” in messages via his social media accounts, the daily reported.”
Sabah also reported that the prosecutor had applied for an Interpol notice, one that would alert the 190 countries with membership in the global policing organization that Turkey was seeking Kanter’s deportation.
On Saturday, Kanter posted a video from the Romanian airport, claiming he was unable to travel any further because of his “political views” and calling Erdogan “the Hitler of our century.” With help from the Thunder, the Department of Homeland Security and both Oklahoma senators, he was able to travel to London and then on to New York, where he held a news conference Monday detailing his “scary” experience.
“It was scary because there was a chance they might send me back to Turkey,” Kanter told reporters. “And if they send me back to Turkey, probably you guys wouldn’t hear a word from me the second day. It would have definitely gotten really ugly.”
Kanter has a green card for the United States, but he said Monday that he was “country-less” and “open to adoption” by the nation where he first arrived in 2009 to play one year at a prep school. Kanter committed to Kentucky but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because he had previously been paid to play for a top Turkish squad; he was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2011 and traded to the Thunder in 2015.
“I want you guys to think about what the Turkish government means when they say that I am a ‘dangerous’ man,” Kanter said in his essay. “I’ve never broken any laws. No speeding tickets, nothing. But I’m dangerous? Why?”
“I speak my mind about things that I believe in,” he wrote. “I always have. I share my thoughts on Twitter and Facebook about the terrible things that are being done to people in Turkey. I want the whole world to know about the human rights abuses that are going on there.
“To the Erdogan government, this makes me a dangerous man.”