Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the widespread human rights violations taking place under his rule, faces nine outstanding arrest warrants issued by Turkish authorities, Nordic Monitor reported.
According to official documents obtained by Nordic Monitor dated July 12, 2021, Turkish prosecutors have sought the arrest of Kanter for defamation and terrorism, the two most abused criminal charges used by the Erdoğan government to punish critics, opponents and dissidents at home and abroad.
The 29-year-old NBA star was issued six arrest warrants for allegedly defaming President Erdoğan, the oppressive leader of Turkey who has locked up tens of thousands of his critics for simply exercising their right to dissent and freedom of speech.
The warrants were issued in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 by Penal Courts of Peace (Sulh Ceza Hakimlikleri) in İstanbul, Ankara and Yozgat provinces.
Although he has been under constant threat from the Turkish government and its proxies, Kanter has never shied away from criticizing the Erdoğan government’s abysmal record in human rights violations and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. He has appeared in US and international media to raise awareness of rights violations and abuses in Turkey.
Official document details nine arrest warrants issued for NBA player Enes Kanter on dubious charges:
Turkish prosecutors investigated 128,872 people for insulting Erdoğan between 2014 and 2019, resulting in prison sentences for nearly 10,000 people with many cases still pending. The crackdown targeted 318 minors between the ages 12 and 17 who have been the subject of criminal investigations for insulting the head of state.
Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) states that any person who insults the president of the republic faces a prison term of up to four years. This sentence can be increased by a sixth if it has national exposure, and by a third if committed by the press or media. In total 9,554 people have been handed down sentences for insulting the president.
In a 2016 opinion the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe body specializing in constitutional matters and the rule of law, sounded alarm bells about the abuse of defamation charges. It noted with concern the large number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions reported by the press for insulting the president.
One arrest warrant for Kanter was issued by an İstanbul court at the request of Erdoğan advisor Hidayet Türkoğlu, who filed a criminal complaint against Kanter alleging defamation. Using the weight of the president’s office, Türkoğlu got a prosecutor to indict Kanter, who faces up to four years in prison on this charge alone.
Türkoğlu, a former NBA player who was suspended in 2013 for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug program, is also president of the Turkish Basketball Federation. Türkoğlu was photographed in 2019 with the leader of an organized crime syndicate, Galip Öztürk, a pro-Erdoğan figure who fled abroad after being convicted of murder.
Two arrest warrants issued for Kanter originated from terrorism charges because of Kanter’s affiliation with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, a US resident.
President Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.
Turkey had revoked Kanter’s passport in 2017 and attempted to have him deported from Romania on May 20, 2017 during one of his international trips. His passport was briefly seized by the Romanian police upon a request from the Turkish government. The NBA said it had worked with the State Department to ensure Kanter’s release in Romania.
Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Many believe the failed coup was a false flag operation orchestrated by Erdoğan and his intelligence and military chiefs to set up the opposition for a crackdown. During coup trials, evidence emerged that many operatives of the intelligence agency had worked to make the limited military mobilization appear to be a real coup attempt.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Statistics released by the Council of Europe (CoE) indicate that as of January 2020 out of 30,524 prisoners convicted on terrorism charges in the 47 CoE member states, 29,827 were in Turkey. In other words, 98 percent of all inmates convicted of terrorism in all of Europe are resident in Turkey. It shows how the government abuses its counterterrorism laws to punish critics, opponents and dissidents in this country of 84 million that is suffering under the iron grip of President Erdoğan.