Turkey’s state-run news agency says prosecutors are seeking more than four years in prison for NBA player Enes Kanter on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Anadolu Agency says an indictment prepared by the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office accuses the New York Knicks player of insulting the president in a series of tweets he posted in May and June 2016.
Kanter enrolled at the University of Kentucky for the 2010-2011 season, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA over benefits he received from a Turkish professional team. He, instead, practiced with the team as a student coach. That team featured Josh Harrellson and Brandon Knight and reached the 2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Kanter said he wasn’t concerned about the threat of prosecution and continued his criticisms of Erdogan, saying, “That dude is a maniac.”
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“That stuff really don’t bother me because I’m used to it,” Kanter said after the Knicks practiced Wednesday in New York.
“I think it’s just nothing to me, man. I’m in America. I’m good and my focus right now is just going out there, playing basketball, have fun with my teammates and just winning and just thinking about playoffs.”
Kanter cannot return to Turkey because his passport has been canceled. He would be tried in absentia.
The player is a vocal supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric blamed by Turkey for last year’s failed military coup.
Kanter was detained in Romania on May 20. He said he was able to return to the United States after American officials intervened.
He said his family remains in Turkey and he is concerned for them – he said his father at one point was jailed for a week – but he downplayed the situation otherwise.
“I was like, that’s it, only four years? All the trash I’ve been talking?” Kanter said. “I promise you guys, it doesn’t really bother me even bother me a little bit, because my thing is just going out there and playing basketball.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in Greenburgh, New York, contributed to this report.