If I'm in America, I'm safe: why Enes Kanter Knicks fears for his life abroad

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Enes Kanter, of the New York Knicks Center, was born in Turkey and harsh critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He will stay at home when his team travels to London to play against the Washington Wizards next week. The former NBA player, who is 6 feet 11 inches, said last week that he was afraid of being "killed" or kidnapped by Turkish government agents if he left the United States.

In an interview with CBSN & # 39; s "Red & Blue" On Wednesday, Kanter discussed his international quarrel with the Turkish leader and explained why he feared for his life for supporting a dissident cleric whom Turkey considers a terrorist.

"If I'm in America, I'm safe, I feel very safe," Kanter said. "But if I come out of America, it will be a very dangerous situation, I am faced with many arrests [warrants]. "

He told CBSN that he had originally planned to travel with the team for the NBA's international showcase, despite restrictions that would be imposed by team officials for his safety.

"[The team] says: "Yes, you can go to London. But if you go to London, all you can do is train yourself, come back to your room. Go to the game, come back to your room. And you must be with security 24/7. And you can not leave your room, other than the training and the game, "said Kanter. And it suited me. "

Kanter said he wanted to be part of his team, but the Knicks home office has finally decided to be cautious.

"They say to themselves," You know what, it's not worth it. This could be very dangerous for you to go there. It's not worth risking, "Kanter said, fearing he would be kidnapped by Turkish spies and sent back to his homeland.

"I will not risk my life to go, when the long arms of Erdogan [are] everywhere, he says.

He said he felt safe in the United States, but revealed that the Knicks security team urged him to avoid going alone and contact him in advance, if necessary.

Kanter's quarrel with Erdogan goes back several years. The Knicks Center had criticized Erdogan as a result of a bomb attack and a failed coup d'état attempt in the Turkish capital of Ankara in 2016, blaming Fethullah for his fault. Gulen, an influential religious living in exile in Pennsylvania. Months after the coup attempt, Erdogan said "60 minutes"correspondent Steve Kroft, he wanted the United States to extradite him to Turkey.

"This man is the leader of a terrorist organization that bombed my parliament," Erdogan said. "We have extradited terrorists to the United States in the past and we expect the United States to do the same."

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

Kanter is a supporter of Gulen and continues to talk to him and visit him frequently. His relationship with the cleric has had repercussions, including death threats and the separation of his family. Turkish sound passport has been canceled while he was abroad in 2017, leaving him stuck in Romania. Mehmet Kanter, the father of Enes, was charged accused of "belonging to a terrorist group" in 2018 and facing a long prison sentence if he is found guilty.

"Yes [Erdogan] you can not put you in jail, so he will take your family, put him in jail and say, "If you do not stop running against me, I will keep your family in jail," said Kanter. And that's what he tried to do to me. He tried to put my father in jail. He thought I was going to stop talking, but it made me talk more, so people could see. "

The decision not to go to London has earned Kanter the contempt of Hedo Turkoglu, a former NBA player who now plays the role of adviser to the Turkish president. Turkoglu criticized Kanter on Monday for launching a "defamation campaign" against Turkey, claiming that Kanter was in no way able to travel abroad because of "visa problems". Turkoglu accused him of "trying to get noticed with irrational justifications and political remarks".

Kanter told CBSN that he had already thought of Turkoglu as his "big brother" while they were playing together in the Turkish national basketball team. But these days are over – Kanter called him "Erdogan's pocket dog"on Twitter in response to Turkoglu's comments.

"It's very sad to see. [doesn’t] to mean the truth, "Kanter told CBSN.

He also pointed out that he had no visa problem and had even shown the CBSN a copy of a travel document allowing him to travel abroad. He currently holds the green card and is about to be a US citizen in 2021, but that did not stop some fans from offering to help speed up the process.

"I received tons of marriage proposals saying," I am an American citizen, if you get married, you can also be a citizen, "he said." I'm just going to wait another two years. When I arrived in America outside of the plane, I said: "I went home."