New York Knicks’ center Enes Kanter, who just opted in to his final year of an $18.6 million contract with the team, has told Fox News that he receives death threats every week because of his strong criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“I don’t just get hate mail. I get three or four death threats every week. With death threats – you just never know,” Kanter told Fox News. “It’s pretty crazy. I used to take a screen shot of them, but after a while I was getting so many, I decided I wasn’t going to bother and waste my time anymore. It’s pretty disgusting.”
Kanter believes the threats are from pro-Erdoğan supporters both in Turkey and the wider diaspora. He has alerted law enforcement and the Knicks’ security detail, and said he feels safe while he’s in the US.
“But anywhere outside America would be very dangerous,” Kanter said.
Turkish prosecutors are seeking a four-year prison sentence for Kanter’s alleged membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, which the Turkish government calls a “terrorist organization” and accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in July 2016, an allegation strongly denied by the movement.
Following the failed putsch, Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a massive crackdown on members of the movement, purging at least 160,000 from state jobs and bringing legal action against thousands of others.
But Kanter won’t back down. He has referred to Erdoğan in such blunt terms as a “maniac” and compared him to Adolf Hitler. He also dismisses the charges against him, saying “That’s it? Only four years? … All the trash I’ve been talking?”
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office demanded up to four years, eight months in prison for insulting President Erdoğan in an indictment filed against Kanter in December.
According to the indictment Kanter allegedly insulted Erdoğan in tweets on May. 7, 9 and 11 and June 2, 2016.
“I have said less than that dishonorable [man] deserves. Add another 4 years for me, master,” Kanter tweeted at the time.
In May 2017 Kanter’s passport was briefly seized by Romanian police upon a request from the Turkish government.
“The guy who did this, you know, is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. [He is] the president of Turkey. You guys know him by his attack on people in Washington, D.C. He is a bad man. He is a dictator. He is the Hitler of our century. I will keep you posted. Just pray for us,” Kanter said at Bucharest Airport.
Once he landed in the US, Kanter revealed that the Turkish government had also tried to catch him in Indonesia.
“I was sleeping around 2:30 a.m. and my manager knocked on my door. He said the secret service and the Indonesian army were looking for me because the Turkish government told them I was a dangerous man,” Kanter said.
Kanter’s father, Professor Mehmet Kanter, who was fired from his university job after the coup attempt for alleged ties to the Gülen movement, has also been indicted in Turkey on charges of membership in a “terrorist organization.”
“My family in Turkey can’t even come to America, they can’t even leave the country. It is pretty sad, just because of me they are going through all these tough times,” the younger Kanter told Fox News. “They raided my family’s house a year ago, they took all their electronics and laptops and everything. They wanted to see if I am still in contact with them. If I send one single message to them, they will go to jail.”
Erdoğan recently won re-election in Turkey under a new system of governance that introduces a powerful executive presidency with sweeping powers and does away with traditional checks and balances. Critics have said that Turkey is now governed by one-man rule.