How An NBA Player Became Wanted As A Terrorist In His Home Country

The Turkish government has accused Enes Kanter of terrorism because he supports the president's political opponent.
Posted at 12:51 PM, May 27, 2017

Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter is wanted in his home country of Turkey after authorities there accused him of being part of a terrorist group. But Kanter says he's being persecuted for his politics.

Kanter wrote in The Players' Tribune that he was in Indonesia running a basketball camp for kids when he learned Turkish agents wanted to talk to him.

He said, "If you’re from Turkey, you never think agents are just there to 'talk.'"

Kanter said he drew the attention of the Turkish government for criticizing its controversial president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  

"He's attacked people in Washington; he's a bad, bad man. He's a dictator, and he's the Hitler of our century," Kanter said in a Twitter video.

The terrorism accusations stem from Kanter's support of Fetullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. Erdoğan accused Gülen of organizing the failed coup attempt against his government in 2016.

Kanter's outspoken political views have strained his relationship with family in Turkey so much they were forced to disown him.

"Last time I talked to my family was close to two years. Right now I cannot get in contact with them because if I do, they'll be in jail," Kanter told ESPN.

He and his manager fled to Romania from Indonesia on what happened to be Kanter's birthday. There, he learned the Turkish government had canceled his passport, which stranded him at the airport.

After killing time by taking selfies with security guards, Kanter was eventually able to use his green card to get back into the United States.

He wrote, "I'm O.K., but I'm also not O.K., you know? I am lucky. My story has a happy ending. There are thousands of other Turkish people out there with stories that don't have happy endings."

What happens to Kanter now is unclear. Turkey can't serve its arrest warrant in the U.S., but the country could request extradition. But that seems unlikely. In the meantime, Kanter says he's hoping to become an American citizen.