NBA center Enes Kanter’s father has been detained in Turkey, the country’s official news agency reported Friday.
Mehmet Kanter was detained in his Istanbul home for an investigation undertaken by a prosecutor’s office in northwestern Turkey, according to the Anadolu news agency. He is being sent to Tekirdag province for questioning. In Turkey, people are detained, then prosecutors may seek an arrest pending trial or release the detainee.
Anadolu does not specify the scope of the investigation, but Dogan news agency says it is part of an investigation into connections to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The father had disowned Kanter for his public support of Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for last summer’s failed coup attempt when nearly 270 people were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded while trying to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government considers Gulen’s movement a terror organization. Gulen has denied all allegations of involvement in the coup attempt.
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Enes Kanter, who spent one year at the University of Kentucky but did not play, tweeted on Friday about the incident. He called Erdogan the “Hitler of our century,” and warned that his father “is potentially to get tortured as thousand others.”
He also released a formal statement on his website.
“My father is arrested because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party,” Kanter said Friday. “He may get tortured for simply being my family member. … For a second please think and imagine, if something like this is happening to an NBA player, what is happening to the people with no voice or podium to speak on? There could be hundreds of thousands of people that are detained, tortured, or murdered that we are not hearing about.”
The Kanters have become bigger targets than usual lately as Enes Kanter has continued to be a vocal supporter of Gulen’s movement and critic of Erdogan.
According to Dogan, Mehmet Kanter had tried to go into retirement from his professorship at Medeniyet University’s Medical School but was dismissed with a government decree on Sept. 1. Under a state of emergency declared after the July 15 coup, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 civil servants dismissed through executive decrees for alleged links to the cleric.
Just a few weeks ago, Enes Kanter was detained for several hours at a Romanian airport, he believes, because of his criticism of Erdogan. Border police in Romania confirmed that he was detained because Turkish authorities canceled his passport. He later was released and went through London before heading to the United States. He said in a news conference that officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others intervened on his behalf.
Enes Kanter said he routinely receives death threats for criticizing Erdogan, and he might seek an expedited process toward becoming a U.S. citizen. He has played six NBA seasons and averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds this season for the Thunder.
Kanter’s full statement
“I woke this morning to the news of my father being arrested by the Turkish government. The police raided our home in Istanbul, something that is happening to many innocent families across Turkey just because they are members of Hizmet, inspired by Scholar Fethullah Gulen. Hizmet today is a transnational social initiative that advocates for the ideals of human rights, equal opportunity, democracy, non-violence and the emphatic acceptance of religious and cultural diversity.
The AKP (Current regime) has suppressed Free Media, blocked opposition parties in countless ways, changed the constitution granting unprecedented powers, and altered democracy so that they may consolidate power.
My father is arrested because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party. He may get tortured for simply being my family member. There are countless stories that Amnesty International has published about rape, torture, and sodomy in the Turkish prisons following the alleged failed Military Coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that is blamed on innocent individuals of Hizmet. You may clearly see that benefactor of this failed coup was the Turkish Government.
According to Amnesty International & TurkeyPurge.com the AKP Government has detained 104,000 peaceful individuals, which consist of 17,000 women, many of whom are pregnant, or imprisoned with their children. They have shut down nearly 150 media outlets, arrested 234 journalists, which is more than any other country since July 15, 2016. In fact, they have dismissed 4,424 judges & prosecutors further eliminating checks and balances. These acts have assisted in Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power even further.
For a second please think and imagine, if something like this is happening to an NBA player, what is happening to the people with no voice or podium to speak on? There could be hundreds of thousands of people that are detained, tortured, or murdered that we are not hearing about. Freedom of expression is a basic human right, and I ask the WORLD to join me in seeking justice and equality for all and to reject oppressive regimes and dictatorships.”