Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter’s passport has been seized by Romanian police at Henri Coanda Airport upon a request from the Turkish government, according to a tweet posted by the Turkish basketball player on Saturday. However, Kanter was released later on Saturday and departed from Bucharest to head to London, according to multiple reports. Later Kanter stated in a twitter post that he will return to the US and he will hold a press conference in New York on Sunday.
“All good baby! Gonna give press conference tomorrow in NY. Got lots of things to say with lots of crazy stories. Be ready!!! Ohhh Yeeahhh,” Kanter tweeted seven hours he first tweeted that his passport was seized by Romanian police on Saturday.
Kanter, who arrived in Bucharest from Jakarta, Indonesia, as part of his 2017 Enes Kanter Light Foundation global tour, posted a video on Twitter in which police officers have “been holding us here for hours.” According to Kanter’s website, the Light Foundation fosters awareness and provides assistance for children’s development through “education, poverty alleviation and social harmony.”
Kanter said in a 45-second video that he has been held at the airport for hours on the grounds that his passport has been canceled by the Turkish government due to his “political views.” “The reason behind it is just, of course, my political views,” Kanter, who turned 25 Saturday, said in the video. “And the guy who did it is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey.”
The Thunder said they are working with the league office and gathering information through the appropriate channels. The players’ union is “in conversations with the State Department as well as the league” regarding Kanter, said National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, according to the Sports Business Journal. Roberts was speaking Saturday at the Sports Lawyers Association annual conference.
A spokesman for the Romanian border police told the New York Times that Kanter had not been “detained or locked up” while in Romania. “Today at around 1 p.m. local time an individual arrived from Frankfurt,” Fabian Badila told the Times. “My colleagues established that his travel documents weren’t valid, that they had been canceled by his home country, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the country.
“At around 5 p.m., he left the airport on a flight to London,” Badila continued. “While he was at the airport he wasn’t detained or locked up, he was allowed to wander around, but he couldn’t enter the country.” However, NBA player Enes Kanter has not yet to personally update regarding his whereabouts since tweeting “#FreeEnes” from Romania.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has caused antagonism in his home country, as he is one of the most famous professional athletes from Turkey. Kanter is a known supporter of Gülen movement.
During a visit to the White House last week, Erdoğan was again caught in controversy as some of his security detail fought with protesters allegedly following Erdoğan’s order.
“He’s attacked people in Washington. He’s a bad, bad man,” Kanter said in the video. “He is a dictator, and he’s the Hitler of our century. I will keep you posted guys, but just pray for us, and I’ll tell you guys what’s going on.”
In 2016, Kanter, after being outspoken against Erdoğan’s government following a terrorist bombing in Turkey’s capital of Ankara two months earlier, said he received death threats after a failed military coup to overthrow Erdoğan.
In June 2015, Kanter said he was left off of Turkey’s national team for Eurobasket 2015 because of his political views. National team coach Ergin Ataman said at the time that the decision was not political.
Twenty-four-year-old Kanter is one of the most famous Turkish basketball players in the NBA. 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.
“I don’t pretend to understand all the political nuances that drowe a wedge between Oklahoma City Thunder big man, Enes Kanter, and his family, but what I do know is Kanter is a man that believes in freedom and human rights. A man with those principles deserves a home and Oklahoma Governor made it official Saturday when she officially declared October 29th, 2016, Enes Kanter Day,” Fallin said at a gathering to present the letter of declaration to Kanter on Saturday.
However, 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, 2016, despite Gülen himself and Gülen movement strongly deny any involvement into the putsch.
After a letter published by his father last summer in a Turkish newspaper, Kanter announced he had been disowned by his family because of his political views. “Today I lost my mother, father, brothers and sisters, my family and all my relatives,” Enes Kanter wrote in the statement, which was translated to English. “My own father asked me to change my surname. My mother, who has given me life, disowned me. My brothers and sisters, with which we have grown together, ignore me.”
The Turkish government has been trying to confiscate more than 50,000 passports including those held by relatives of journalists living in exile. In April 20, Romanian police have returned passport of Soner Cesur, a Turkish businessman with investments in Romania, which they seized on March 25 upon a demand made by the Turkish government. According to a story in Romanyahaber news website, Cesur’s passport was seized by police at Henri Coanda Airport as he was attempting to fly to Warsaw. Police cited in a written document that the passport was seized upon an order from the Romanian Foreign Ministry.
The seizure of passports started overseas in early 2016. In June of that year the passport of Nevin İpek, Koza İpek Holding CEO Akın İpek’s wife, was canceled after it was allegedly reported lost by someone other than herself.
On Sept. 28 the passport of former Today’s Zaman reporter Arslan Ayan was confiscated by officials at the Turkish Consulate General in New York on the grounds that a warrant for his detention was outstanding back in Turkey.
Last year, Belgian police returned the passport of a Turkish citizen since the cancellation of passports by the Turkish government after a July 15 failed coup in Turkey was considered unlawful. (SCF with turkishminute.com & turkeypurge.com) May 20, 2017