NBA Oklahoma City Thunder player Enes Kanter, who was briefly detained on Saturday at an airport in Romania upon a request from the Turkish government, told CBS news on Monday that he went to Romania after fleeing Indonesia when he found out he was being pursued by local intelligence.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Kanter said the trouble began while he was in Indonesia last week.
“I was sleeping around 2:30 or something and my manager knocked on my door. He said the Secret Service and the Indonesian army were looking for me because the Turkish government told them I was a dangerous man,” Kanter said.
“We didn’t know what we had to do. We escaped the country and went to Singapore, then we came to Romania,” he added.
Underlining that he is getting death threats almost every day, Kanter said Turkey revoked his passport in retaliation for his political views.
When asked about how he traveled to the US from London after his passport was canceled, Kanter said, “I want to say thank you to Homeland Security, State Department, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA, NBPA – we were all working as a team,” he said.
Kanter said he has become a target of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan because he has been an outspoken critic.
Kanter, the 6-foot-11-inch center was traveling on a charity and promotional tour.
“The reason behind it was, whoever is going to try to go against the president, he’s going to try to shut him down,” Kanter said at the press conference in New York on Monday.
Kanter, who also attended the University of Kentucky, said he has received daily death threats, mostly over social media, including two on Monday.
At the news briefing in New York, Kanter accused Erdoğan of quelling opposition at any price, including murder and rape. “Erdoğan, he’s a terrible man. He’s the Hitler of our century,” Kanter said. “I hope the world is going to do something about it.”
Kanter, who returned to the United States via London after his release by Romanian authorities, said on Monday his worst fear was to be sent against his will to Turkey.
“It was, of course, scary. If they sent me back to Turkey, probably you guys wouldn’t hear a word from me the second day,” Kanter said.
Kanter, who holds a US green card allowing him to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis, said he hoped to become an American citizen because he is currently “country-less.”
Kanter said he had received a great deal of support online from fans and personal messages from teammates wishing him well following the incident in Romania, including a text message from teammate, Russell Westbrook.
“I’m not even from America, and I see all these people and I get all this support. I feel like this is my home now,” Kanter said.
The Turkish government has been trying to confiscate more than 50,000 passports including those held by relatives of journalists living in exile.
Twenty-four-year-old Kanter is one of the most famous Turkish basketball players in the NBA. His family disowned him after he pledged support to Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government says was behind a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin officially declared Oct. 29, 2016 “Enes Kanter Day” for the professional success of the Oklahoma City Thunder player and his dedication to civic organizations in the state. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 22, 2017