A prosecutor from Istanbul opened the investigation because of Kanter’s purported allegiance to the Gulen Movement, a Sunni Muslim organization with millions of members that is led by a Turkish-born cleric living in Pennsylvania. The pro-government newspaper, Sabah, said a local judge then issued an arrest warrant for the 25-year-old forward. To learn more about the Gülen, check out this Vox.com explainer.
Kanter had been detained at a Romanian airport in late May, where Turkish officials revoked his passport for public comments he made criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They also threatened to deport him back to Turkey, where he would have been arrested for his outspoken support for Fethullah Gülen, the cleric in Pennsylvania that Turkish officials blame for a failed coup against Erdoğan.
Kanter appeared on Desus and Mero to explain his side of the story when he returned to the United States.
The forward made headlines in his native country after he called Erdoğan “the Hitler of our Century.” He also accused Erdoğan of staging the coup and killing off those who opposed him.
Kanter later posted a tweet in response to the Sabah article in Turkish that translated to “You can’t catch me. Don’t waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces.”
The arrest warrant, according to AFP, referred to Kanter’s alleged usage of Bylock, an encrypted messaging app popular with Gülen supporters. It also pointed to Kanter’s “praise for terror organisations,” per AFP, through his social media accounts.
In mid-May, Erdoğan visited the White House in hopes of strengthening the relationship between the United States and Turkey. Instead, his security detail attacked peaceful protestors in a one-sided onslaught that was caught on camera and led to 11 injuries stemming from his guards kicking and stomping both men and women.
Kanter has praised Gülen and spoken out against Erdoğan in the past. Last year, he supported Gülen by posting CNN’s breaking news of his denial of involvement in the attempted coup.
Kanter, who was left off the Turkish national basketball team for what he felt was political reasons, averaged 14.3 points per game as the sixth man for Oklahoma City this season. Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik are the only other active Turkish NBA players.