Turkish prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for New York Knicks centre Enes Kanter on accusations he is part of a “terrorist” organisation, according to local news reports.
Chief prosecutors in Istanbul reportedly have prepared an extradition request for Kanter, who responded to stories by Turkey‘s pro-government Sabah newspaper and state-run Anadolu Agency immediately on Wednesday.
“Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing. I don’t even have a parking ticket in the US (True). I have always been a law-abiding resident,” Kanter said through his personal Twitter account.
Kanter’s Turkish passport was revoked in 2017.
He refused to travel to London with the Knicks this week, claiming spies or other Turkish operatives could assassinate him.
“It’s altogether too risky,” Kanter wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Kanter said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “uses Interpol … as a tool to have his critics arrested in other countries”.
Erdogan blamed Gulen and his supporters for a failed coup in 2016 that killed more than 250 people and has accused Kanter publicly of financially supporting Gulen’s movement.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of the Turkish president and backs Gulen, who has lived in the US since 1999.
Critic of Erdogan
A Red Notice is a formal request to locate and arrest an individual facing extradition.
The US would likely comply with the request only in the event there is compelling evidence Kanter committed a crime that could be prosecutable in the US.
Prior to the failed putsch, Gulen’s movement had placed supporters within the Turkish state apparatus, particularly the judiciary and police, from where it attacked its opponents.
After the attempted coup, the purge of alleged Gulenists was stepped up, resulting in tens of thousands of people being dismissed from their posts and arrested.
Gulen, who was previously allied to Erdogan, denies involvement in the coup attempt.
As his Knicks teammates travelled to London for a game on Thursday, Kanter met with US Senator Marco Rubio to discuss free speech in Turkey.
Rubio, along with other international figures, tweeted support for Kanter
Enes Kanter can’t play basketball with the Knicks in Europe due to death threats from the Turkish government.
I met with him yesterday.https://t.co/RbuIH6avK7
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 16, 2019
This is what happens when autocrats are allowed to abuse the institutions of the free world. Erdogan wants to use Interpol to persecute a political dissident in the US, as Putin does. @Enes_Kanter deserves all our support. https://t.co/zZeFyP9kTS
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) January 16, 2019