Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the widespread human rights violations taking place under his rule, announced on Monday that he has been sued by Erdoğan on allegations of insult.
Kanter posted a photo of an official notice of the lawsuit sent to him by Turkey’s Consulate General in Los Angeles. Kanter tore up the official notice and then burned it.
“DictatorErdogan is suing me and asking for my arrest for ‘Insulting him.’ His skin is thinner [than] an onion. Looks like I hurt RTErdogan feelings a little,” tweeted Kanter.
#DictatorErdogan is suing me and asking for my arrest for “Insulting him”.
His skin is thinner then an onion 😅
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) May 10, 2021
Kanter, who has lived mainly in the United States for more than a decade, has used his substantial platform as an international star athlete to condemn Turkey’s pivot towards authoritarianism under Erdoğan over the past few years. Turkey revoked his passport in 2017 like those of thousands of others in a massive crackdown launched by the Turkish government following a coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkish officials are also seeking an Interpol Red Notice for Kanter and have been pursuing his arrest since January 2019, alleging that he backed Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and provided financial support to his group.
Kanter describes himself as a close ally of Gülen, a US-based Muslim cleric who inspired the Gülen movement, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and is accused of masterminding the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.
Although both Gülen and his followers strongly deny involvement in the attempted coup and in any terrorist activities, Ankara removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the failed coup as part of a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens that was launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Kanter dismisses the failed coup attempt in Turkey as a “fake coup” staged by Erdoğan.
Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.