Turkey charges the father of Knicks center Enes Kanter as a terrorist amidst political crackdowns

The heated feud between the family of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter and the government of his native Turkey took another nasty turn on Monday when a court accepted an indictment charging his father, Mehmet, with ‘membership in a terror group,’ the country’s official news agency reported.

Prosecutors planned to seek Mehmet’s conviction and a prison term of five to 10 years at trial, Anadolu Agency said.

Enes Kanter currently faces four years in a Turkish prison for insulting the country’s controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom the NBA star has repeatedly  referred to as ‘The Hitler of our century.’ Since 2016, when he survived an attempted coup, Erdoğan has been cracking down on the media and political opponents, leading to thousands of arrests. 

‘Keep my family, innocent people in your prayers,’ the basketball player tweeted Monday with the hashtag ‘DictatorErdogan.’ His Twitter account is withheld in Turkey. 

It’s unclear when the trial in western Tekirdag province would begin. Kanter’s father is not currently in Turkey, Hank Fetic, the manager of the Knicks’ center, told ESPN.

‘No matter what happens, I will continue to keep fighting for human rights and freedom of speech, justice and democracy above all,’ read Kanter’s statement. ‘I will stand for what I believe in. All I’m doing is trying to be the voice of all these innocent people.’

Enes Kanter is a follower of a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who the government accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in 2016. Cleric Fethullah Gulen has denied the allegation, but tens of thousands of people suspected of ties to his network have been arrested or fired.

The elder Kanter, a professor, was purged from public service after the coup attempt and detained for five days last summer.

Anadolu said the indictment alleges he contacted some 120 suspects with alleged links to Gulen, including dozens who were said to have communicated through an encrypted messaging application.

Enes Kanter, who previously played for Oklahoma City and Utah, has been a vocal critic of Erdogan.

His passport was revoked by Turkish authorities last year, and an arrest warrant was issued after he was named a ‘fugitive’ by a Turkish court over his support for U.S-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating an attempted coup in July 2016.

Gulen, who denies involvement in the failed putsch, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 as Erdogan has sought his extradition.

Enes Kanter was indicted in Turkey for trying  ‘defame and deride’ Erdogan on Twitter.

The 6-foot-11-inch center responded on Twitter in December: ‘I have said less than that honorless [man] deserves. Add another 4 years for me, master.’

Kanter was detained in Romania in May of 2017 when authorities learned his Turkish passport had been revoked. He later returned to the United States.

Kanter lashed out at Erdogan at a news conference following his detention, again calling him the ‘Hitler of our century.’ 

Publicly, at least, Mehmet Kanter had been distancing himself from his son and Gulen.  

Last year, Turkish media published a handwritten letter signed by Mehmet, disowning a son he accused of having been ‘hypnotized’ by the Gulen movement.

Mehmet also told the Daily Sabah, a pro-government newspaper: ‘I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son.’

In response, Enes Kanter – the third pick in the 2011 NBA draft – said he was dedicating himself to Gulen and the cleric’s Hizmet (Service) movement.

But when Mehmet was arrested in Turkey last June, Enes still rushed to his defense on Twitter: ‘HEY WORLD MY DAD HAS BEEN ARRESTED by Turkish government and the Hitler of our century. He is potentially to get tortured as thousand others.’

‘They hate when I talk to you guys in front of all of these cameras, these microphones,’ Kanter told the New York basketball media in December. ‘They hate it, but that’s why they’re doing all this. “Oh, we’re going to take his dad away, we’re going to put him in prison.” It doesn’t really bother me. [If] we made the playoffs, it will drive him crazy.’ (The Knicks did not make the playoffs)

Previously it was reported that although the NBA is very popular in Turkey, Knicks games are not broadcast within the country.

‘That’s a lot of money they’re losing,’ he said, referring to Turkish television networks.

Kanter said he’s struggled to sign a shoe contract because sneaker companies are reluctant to anger Turkey, where they have ‘million dollar investments,’ he explained.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk