PORTLAND, Ore. — New Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter has long been a critic of the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling him him a lunatic, maniac dictator.
When he was with the Knicks, Enes Kanter skipped a game against the Washington Wizards that was played in London, fearing assassination by Turkish regime spies.
He said he can’t travel anywhere except the U.S. and Canada because “there’s a chance I could get killed out there.”
Kanter has been a vocal critic of Erdogan for years, once referring to him as “the Hitler of our century.” Kanter’s Turkish passport was revoked in 2017, and an international warrant for his arrest was issued by Turkey.
In an interview with Time magazine, he said he cannot go alone anywhere for fear that a lone wolf Erdogan spy will appear.
Kanter is a follower of now U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding a failed military coup in 2016.
Kanter’s father, Mehmet, was indicted last year and charged with “membership in a terror group.” The former professor lost his job after the failed military coup even though he had to publicly disavow his son and his beliefs.
“People often ask me why I continue to speak out if it’s hurting my family,” Kanter wrote in a column for Time magazine last year. “But that’s exactly why I speak out. The people Erdogan is targeting are my family, my friends, my neighbors, my classmates. I need to speak out, or my country will suffer in silence.”
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Turkish prosecutors first sought the international arrest warrant last January, accusing him of membership in a terror organization.
Sabah newspaper says the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office had also prepared an extradition request for the NBA player. Officials at the prosecutor’s office could not be reached by The Associated Press for comment.
Kanter responded on Twitter that the Turkish government could not present “any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing.”
“I don’t even have a parking ticket in the U.S.,” he wrote.
In January, the Knicks cited a visa issue for Kanter missing the London trip.
Kanter denied that was the problem, even posting a photo of a travel document on social media, and made it clear his issue was his safety.
While the Knicks were overseas, Kanter posted a number of photos of himself meeting with U.S. congressmen. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post explaining his decision and his reasons for standing against Erdogan.
“My decision not to travel to London was difficult from a competitive standpoint but much easier from a safety one,” he wrote. “It helps puts a spotlight on how a dictator is wrecking Turkey — people have been killed, thousands are unjustly imprisoned, and countless lives have been ruined. That is no game.”