Turkish gov’t indicts father of NBA star Kanter over his alleged links to Gülen movement

Mehmet Kanter, the father of NBA star and New York Knicks center Enes Kanter, has been indicted by Turkish prosecutors on charges of membership in a “terrorist organization,” part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported on Monday that the indictment says the elder Kanter was contacted by 127 people with alleged ties to US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen. The report said the prosecutors would seek a sentence of up to 10 years for Kanter, who is a professor.

Mehmet Kanter

Mehmet Kanter was expelled from public service and imprisoned for five days in the summer of 2017 over his alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Kanter’s whereabouts are not known, but US sports broadcaster ESPN reported that he is not currently in Turkey, citing his son’s manager, Hank Fetic.

Enes Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of Turkey’s Islamist and autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, asked for support on Twitter and said he would continue to call out the regime for its “destruction of Turkish democracy and gross human right’s violations.”

“I will continue to keep fighting for human rights and freedom of speech,” he said in a post on Monday and added: “Justice and democracy above all. I will stand for what I believe in. All I’m doing is trying to be the voice of innocent people.”

“Keep my family, innocent people in your prayers,” he wrote before adding the hashtag #DictatorErdogan. Last year, AA reported that Turkish prosecutors had asked that Enes Kanter be jailed for up to four years for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan.

The NBA player also accused Turkey of jailing more than a hundred journalists, saying that “freedom of expression is under constant attack by Erdogan’s government.” He said he was only trying to lend a voice to innocent people and pledged to continue working on behalf of human rights in Turkey.

Kanter’s passport was canceled by Turkish authorities in May 2017 and his Twitter account is currently banned in Turkey.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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