Since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Turkish NBA basketball player Enes Kanter has defended the plotters. But with his credibility waning and the New York Knicks looking to trade him, what will become of Kanter?
Chief prosecutors in Istanbul have reportedly prepared an extradition request for NBA basketball player Enes Kanter, due to his links to the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), the group behind the coup in July 15 2016.
The report by the Anadolu Agency follows an outburst by Kanter in which he alleged that he was unable to travel to the UK over "fears of being assassinated by Turkey”.
Hidayet Turkoglu, a veteran NBA basketball player and current president of the Turkish Basketball Federation, flatly denied Kanter’s accusations.
"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", said Turkoglu.
Kanter, currently playing for the New York Knicks, openly declared his support and affiliation to Fetullah Gulen, the US-based leader of FETO.
Kanter claimed that his life would be in danger if he travelled to London to play basketball. However Turkoglu argued: “We know that he has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.”
The claim by Kanter that he was not travelling due threats to his life was undercut by the New York Knicks, who said the player would not be travelling with the team due to “visa issues”.
Kanter has not provided any evidence that his life is under threat, nor have the US authorities or the New York Knicks, leading many to question his claims.
In May 2017, the Turkish government cancelled Kanter’s passport while he was travelling to Romania, due to his open support for FETO.
Since then, Kanter has been based in the US, where he says he meets Gulen, the mastermind behind the failed coup, “once every two to three weeks”.
Kanter’s campaign against Turkey is said to be driven by loyalty to the businessman and cleric, who is leader of a secretive cult headquartered in Pennsylvania.
In an interview with CNN, Kanter held up an A4 sized paper which he claimed allowed him to “anywhere in the world”. However, when news anchor Hala Gorani pressed Kanter on what exactly he was showing, he remained evasive.
The document that Kanter was holding was a ‘Permit to Reenter’, which allows Kanter to re-enter the US but is not a passport and is not recognised as a travel document by most countries, making a visa necessary.
To apply for a UK visa, according to the UK government, one needs a ‘valid passport’, making it impossible for Kanter to travel.
When TRT World contacted the UK Home Office, the body responsible for dealing with visas, a spokesperson said: "We do not comment on individual cases."
Since losing his Turkish passport, there is no indication that Kanter has been able to travel outside of the United States.
Some claim Kanter is using his platform as an NBA player to drive an anti-Turkish political agenda in the US and in the process harm relations between Turkey and the US. They see his comments over his travel restrictions as furthering that anti-Turkish agenda.