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Why Turkey is seeking an international arrest warrant for Knicks’ Enes Kanter

Kanter is fearful for his life due to his vocal opposition to the president of Turkey. Here’s how the situation escalated.

NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Turkish government is seeking the extradition of New York Knicks big man and outspoken political critic Enes Kanter, accusing him of membership in what they consider a terrorist organization, according to The Associated Press. Kanter has had an arrest warrant in Turkey since 2017, but Turkish prosecutors are now seeking an international warrant to have him brought back to and tried in his home country.

Kanter, a Turkish native, has been outspoken against the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, most recently calling him a “lunatic” and a “dictator.” Kanter is a self-identified follower of Fethullah Gülen, a cleric in Pennsylvania that Turkish officials blame for a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016. Gülen has denied any involvement.

This is the icing on the cake of reasons for why Kanter will not travel with the Knicks to London for their Jan. 17 game against the Washington Wizards.

“They’ve got a lot of spies there,” Kanter said. “I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation.”

Kanter elaborated in a Washington Post op-ed:

On Thursday, I won’t be able to go to work when my team, the New York Knicks, plays the Washington Wizards in London. It is altogether too risky. Erdogan uses Interpol, the international law enforcement organization with 194 member nations, as a tool to have his critics arrested in other countries. I do not yet have U.S. citizenship or a U.S. passport, which could offer me protection, so I can’t risk traveling overseas.

Even if I did, I wouldn’t travel this week to Britain, where I easily could be kidnapped or killed by Turkish agents. Erdogan’s arms are long. He hunts down anyone who opposes him. In 2017, his security team — or thugs, as The Post’s editorial board described them — even beat up peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.

“Anyone who speaks out against him is a target,” Kanter added. “I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me.”

Kanter has been outspoken against Erdoğan for years

Kanter’s publicly spoken against Erdoğan for the last three years, calling him “the Hitler of our century.” Kanter claims Turkey’s tried to extradite him at least twice, and he had his passport revoked.

In 2016, Turkish prosecutors sought a four-year jail sentence for Kanter’s statements, and he was held in Romania. In 2017, Kanter’s father was arrested at his home in Turkey.

Kanter remains a supporter of Gulen, a Sunni Muslim preacher who Erdoğan accused of leading a failed military coup in 2016.

Former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu also got involved

Turkoglu, who is Turkish has served as an advisor to Erdoğan since 2016, recently called Kanter’s comments a “smear campaign” against Erdoğan. Kanter repsonded by saying that Turkoglu is Erdoğan’s “lap dog.”

Turkoglu claimedthat Kanter can’t travel to England because of visa issues and also said that Kanter’s “remarks are irrational and distort the truth.”

Here’s the full statement:

I received with concern the news about the delusion targeting the Republic of Turkey of Enes Kanter, who pledged loyalty to the ringleader of Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), and his statement that he would miss the game in London due to fears of being assassinated by Turkey.

We know that he has not been able to travel to many countries due to vis issues since 2017. In other words, Kanter cannot enter the UK not because of fears for life as he claims but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.

Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career.

Kanter not only targeted the Republic of Turkey, governed by the rule of law, with unjust accusations but he also regarded the British security forces as weak and attempted to harm Turkish-British relations.

It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.

Kanter said Turkoglu was a “lap dog” for the Turkish government, then Kanter posted his travel documents on Twitter to prove there was no visa issue: