Thunder’s Kanter said he believed his passport was canceled in retaliation for his political views, including his disdain for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
USA TODAY Sports
Enes Kanter, the Turkish-born Oklahoma City Thunder forward who had his passport canceled at a Romanian airport last week, tweeted Friday morning that the Turkish government arrested his father and will “potentially” torture him like a “thousand others.”
Kanter released a statement on his website hours later claiming that police raided his home in Istanbul and arrested his father “because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party” in Turkey.
“He may get tortured for simply being my family member,” Kanter wrote.
According to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, Kanter’s father, Mehmet, was detained in his home for an investigation undertaken by a prosecutor’s office in northwestern Turkey and is being sent to another province for questioning.
Anadolu does not specify the scope of the investigation, but Dogan news agency reports it is part of an investigation into connections to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for last summer’s failed attempt to try and overthrow Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish government considers Gulen’s movement a terror organization. Gulen has denied all allegations of involvement in the coup attempt.
Kanter, who has returned to the U.S. after his passport fiasco, is a known supporter of Gulen. He was issued an arrest warrant last week for his alleged association with the coup attempt and for “being a member of a terrorist organization,” according to a report from a Turkish newspaper, the Daily Sabah.
Kanter said last week he believed his passport was canceled in retaliation for his political views and his criticism of Erdogan.
“He’s a terrible man,” Kanter said on a conference call with media members once he returned to America. “I hope the world does something about it. …I hope the whole world is watching. Once these people get to jail, it’s not over for them. …People are getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, and raped. I love my country, but I’m just trying to speak up for innocent people. …There are thousands of people out there with situations worse than mine.”
Kanter said Erdogan and the Turkish government have tried to silence anyone who speaks out against their power and that he is the “only one left that is speaking the truth about the government” and the “corruption.”
Kanter also said he’s receiving death threats “every day,” most of which come on social media, and that his family’s life is in danger and he cannot communicate with them.
“If they know that I am in contact with any of my family — my mom, my dad … if they know that they text me somehow — Viber, WhatsApp, somehow — they will be in the jail the next day. It’s that crazy,” Kanter told USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on a recent NBA A to Z podcast.
Kanter said he has no regrets about speaking out against the government because he wants to shed light on what’s “truly going on.”
“People don’t understand. My friends are (in Turkey) in a jail getting tortured. My family there are getting tortured. When my dad goes to the supermarket, they spit on his face and say, ‘What kind of son you have?’ People don’t understand what’s going on in Turkey. … That’s why (I’m trying) to be the voice of all these innocent people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Enes Kanter podcast: