Enes Kanter: Turkey seeks jail term for NBA star for insulting Erdogan
Turkish prosecutors have asked a court to sentence NBA star Enes Kanter to as many as four years in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the state-run news agency Anadolu reported on Wednesday.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor's office alleges that the centre for the New York Knicks basketball team should be sentenced for a series of tweets he posted that insulted Erdogan in May 2016.
Kanter's passport was revoked by Turkish authorities earlier this year, and an arrest warrant was issued after he was designated a "fugitive" by a Turkish court over his support for US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating an attempted coup in July 2016.
Kanter is a long-time supporter of Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and whose extradition Erdogan is seeking. Gulen denies involvement in the failed putsch.
The indictment on Wednesday said Kanter used Twitter to "defame and deride" Erdogan, Anadolu said.
"You guys were seeing today that I was just out there having fun, playing basketball and practising with my teammates," Kanter told ESPN after hearing the news.
"You guys are going to say, 'How do you get used to, like, prison, this and that, whatever?' I think it's just nothing to me, man, because I'm in America. I'm good. My focus right now is just going out there, playing basketball, having fun with my teammates and just winning, and just thinking about playoffs. I don't really think about all this stuff, whatever. They can do whatever they want to do," he said.
The 210 cm-tall centre took to Twitter to respond to the indictment on Wednesday, adding screenshots of the media reports.
Translation: "I have said less than that honourless (man) deserves. Add another 4 years for me, master."
Kanter was detained in Romania in May when authorities learned his Turkish passport had been revoked. He later returned to the United States.
He lashed out at Erdogan at a news conference following his detention, calling him the "Hitler of our century."
The NBA star holds a US green card that allows him to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.
Last year, Turkish media published a handwritten letter signed by Kanter's father, Mehmet, disowning his son and accusing him of being "hypnotised" by the Gulen movement.
In response, the 25-year-old Kanter, the third pick in the NBA draft when he joined the Utah Jazz in 2011, said he was dedicating himself to Gulen and the cleric's Hizmet (Service) movement.
Kanter played for the Turkish national team at the 2011 European Championships but was controversially left out of the squad for the 2015 tournament.
He said it was because he had expressed support for Gulen, but national coach Ergin Ataman said his omission was because he had not apologised to teammates over "past incidents".