TURKEY

Erdogan Regime Releases NBA Player Enes Kanter’s Father

Mehmet Kanter will remain under "judicial control" over alleged ties to anti-Erdogan group

TURKEY
AFP/Getty Images
Jun 08, 2017 at 12:26 PM ET

According to a report from Agence France-Presse, Mehmet Kanter, the father of Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter, was released from police custody on Wednesday by a court in Tekirdag, Turkey, though he remains under “judicial control,” which means he’s subject to further law enforcement and governmental supervision.

Mehmet, a university professor, was arrested last week by the Turkish government and taken from his home, he is suspected of supporting and having ties to the exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, who has resided in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania since 1999 and is the leader of the Hizmet Movement, which the Erdogan regime claims is behind the bloody, failed 2016 coup. Mehmet’s arrest was first made public via a tweet from his son, a staunch Gülenist and an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who Enes described as, “the Hitler of our century.”

In July 2016, following the failed attempt to dislodge Erdogan by the Turkish military, Kanter tweeted a quote attributed to Gülen condemning the coup. Despite being subject to multiple death threats, Kanter has also leveraged his social media accounts to highlight the ongoing injustices perpetrated by the Ergodun regime, supported Hakan Şükür, also a Gülenist, who was later arrested, and shared an article about the expansion of Erdogan’s political powers.

Enes also claimed that he was left off the roster of the 2015 Turkish National Team due to his pro-Gülen stance. In August 2015, Mehmet publicly disowned his son, saying he had been “hypnotized” by Gülenists who were manipulating Enes, using his fame and wealth as a propaganda tool. “I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son,” he said.

In response, Enes said that he “lost” the entirety of his family, all of whom sided with his father and have broken off all communications, but the familial strife hasn’t led him to abandon his political beliefs.

“For Gulen’s work, which has been grown by the tears of loyal and devoted people, not one but thousands of Enes could be sacrificed,” he said, as translated by Eurohoops.net. “I would sacrifice my mother, father and whole family for Gulen’s sake. I would give my head for this case. I hope my God would take from my life and give it to Gulen. I would sacrifice my heaven and i would laugh through hells for this service. My love for Gulen is more than my love to my mom, father, brothers and sisters and all other loves.”

On May 20, Enes’s passport was canceled by the Turkish government and he was briefly detained in Romania. Enes was allowed to return to the United States, thanks in part to lobbying efforts on his behalf by the NBA and the U.S. State Department.

An arrest warrant was issued by the Turkish government six days later, charging Enes with maintaining a “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” per Daily Sabah, a pro-Erdogan Turkish news outlet. As to the reasons why his father would go from apologizing to Erdogan to being deemed an enemy of the people, a senior fellow at the Central Asia Caucasus told Bleacher Report that Mehmet didn’t have much of a choice when it came to  denouncing his son, lest he find himself subject to imprisonment or worse.

For Enes, the reason why his father was detained is unambiguous.

“My father is arrested because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party. He may get tortured for simply being my family member,” he said in a statement following Mehmet’s arrest. “For a second please think and imagine, if something like this is happening to an NBA player, what is happening to the people with no voice or podium to speak on? There could be hundreds of thousands of people that are detained, tortured, or murdered that we are not hearing about.”

In an interview with the Norman Transcript, Joshua Landis, who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said that both Mehmet and Enes are being targeted to frighten Turkish citizens and reinforce that Erdogan’s authority is absolute.

“The point is not so much to attack Kanter. The point of this exercise is to let Turks around the world know that none of them are safe, that they should not speak out against the government,” he said, citing an incident in which Erdogan’s bodyguards beat up protesters during an official state visit to Washington, D.C. “That’s indicative of the way he and Turkey has been moving — increasingly it’s becoming a dictatorship.”