Turkish prosecutors demand 4 years in jail for NBA star Kanter over ‘insulting’ Erdoğan

Prosecutors in Turkey are seeking up to four years behind bars for NBA star and New York Knicks center Enes Kanter for allegedly “insulting” Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on multiple occasions.

An indictment by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office has quoted Kanter’s allegedly “humiliating” and “insulting” statements about Erdoğan made on social media, Erdoğan regime’s mouthpiece Sabah daily reported on Wednesday. According to the report, the first hearing will be held at an İstanbul court but Kanter is not expected to appear before the judge. He is therefore referred to as ‘fugitive’ by the court.

The 6-foot-11-inch center tweeted on Wednesday in response to the indictment, adding screenshots of the media reports. “I have said less than that honorless (man) deserves. Add another 4 years for me, master,” he told his 526,000 Twitter followers.

A detention warrant was issued for Kanter back in May, 2017, while he was playing for Oklahoma City Thunder, as part of a separate investigation launched into him over his alleged links to the Gülen movement. Prosecutor Can Tuncay issued a detention warrant for Kanter for on charges of membership in an “armed terrorist organization.”

“You can’t catch me. Don’t waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces,” Kanter said in a Twitter post accompanied by a photo of a story by the Sabah daily about the warrant.

A critic of Erdoğan, Kanter was detained at the airport in Bucharest on May 20, 2017 when Romanian authorities learned his Turkish passport had been revoked. He returned to the United States shortly thereafter. At a press conference the following day, the 6-foot, 11-inch center for the Oklahoma Thunder called Erdoğan the “Hitler of our century.”

Kanter has also been accused by the Turkish prosecutors of using a smart phone application known as ByLock and praising the faith-based Gülen movement from his social media accounts. The İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s office has reportedly applied to Turkey’s Justice Ministry to ask Interpol to issue a red notice for Kanter, which would prevent him from traveling.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Kanter said he has become a target of President Erdoğan because he has been an outspoken critic. He said in a video on May 20 on his Twitter account that he believed he was being held at Bucharest Airport because of his political views.

Turkish police also briefly detained Prof. Dr. Mehmet Kanter, father of Enes Kanter, on June 2, 2017 in Kadıköy district of İstanbul as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement launched by the Tekirdağ Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

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 former Oklahoma City Thunder player and his dedication to civic organizations in the state.

Enes Kanter holds a US green card that allows him to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting Turkish autocratic President Erdoğan over their social media posts. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

A total of 1,080 people were convicted of insulting Erdoğan in 2016, according to data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Data also showed that 4,936 cases were launched against people on charges of insult in 2016.

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 Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

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