Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday accused New York Knicks center Enes Kanter of being a member of a U.S. terror organization and requested Interpol assistance in securing an international arrest warrant.
The pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper reported that the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office had also prepared an extradition request for the 26-year-old NBA player, along with the Interpol "Red Notice.”
“Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing,” Kanter tweeted on Wednesday morning. “I don’t even have a parking ticket in the US (True). I have always been a law-abiding resident.”
In another post, Kanter captioned a video of himself dunking during a recent game: “The only thing I terrorize is the rim.”
Turkish prosecutors alleged that Kanter, an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, belongs to a movement founded by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen—which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization allegedly behind the failed coup in 2016. Kanter, who is a Turkish national, allegedly provided financial support to Gulen’s group.
In November, Turkey made similar extradition requests for more than 80 people that the country believes are linked to Gulen.
“Anyone who speaks out against Erdogan is a target,” Kanter tweeted Tuesday night. “That includes me.”
The attempted legal action against Kanter is the latest development in a months-long saga of hostility between the NBA star and the Turkish government.
Earlier this month, Kanter revealed to The Daily Beast that he decided against traveling with the Knicks for this Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards in London because he feared he could be assassinated over his opposition to the Turkish regime.
“There’s a chance that I can get killed out there,” he said. “I want to be known for my game. But like I said, the Turkish government...”
In a Washington Post op-ed describing his decision not to attend the international game, Kanter said he was a “target” for speaking about against the Turkish president, adding that “Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me.”
“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.”
As for his alleged terrorist affiliations, Kanter, who has played in the NBA since 2011, admitted he is a “servant” of Gülen, but that the cleric is peaceful and did not plot against Turkey’s government. Both Gülen and Kanter have repeatedly denied any affiliation with any terrorist groups.
“They claim I am a member of an ‘armed terrorist organization’ because I support Fethullah Gulen, a peaceful Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania,” he wrote. “Erdogan blames him for the attempted coup, but Gulen has repeatedly and emphatically denied involvement.”
As previously reported by The Daily Beast, Kanter was charged in 2017 with “being a member of a terrorist organization” after he tweeted criticisms of Erdoğan’s repressive regime. Shortly after the charges were announced, Kanter’s Turkish passport was revoked.
“On multiple occasions, Kanter has compared Erdoğan to Adolf Hitler, both online and off. Given the brutal purges enacted in the aftermath of the failed coup, the roundup and arrests of hundreds of thousands of citizens, the seizure of private businesses totaling billions in net worth, and the arrests of scores of journalists, it’s difficult to see how he’s violating Godwin’s law,” journalist Robert Silverman wrote in July.
Officials at the prosecutor’s office could not be reached for comment but, according to Interpol, Turkey’s “Red Notice” request for Kanter asked the international body to locate and arrest the NBA star before extradition.
For Kanter to be extradited, however, the United States would also have to prove that Kanter committed a crime that would be prosecuted under the Constitution.