NBA's Enes Kanter Says Father Released from Prison 7 Years After Wrongful Arrest

Jordan Cohn
June 19, 2020 - 11:01 am
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Enes Kanter's battles with his native country, Turkey, are well documented. One can only imagine how difficult it is to focus on basketball when an entire national government is after you on charges linked to terrorism.

But that's what Kanter has had to deal with over the past few years, as Turkey canceled his passport in 2017, and built upon that by officially issuing an extradition request and looking to arrest the NBA big man when he was with the Knicks in early 2019 (via Jill Martin of CNN). Kanter told CNN's Motez Bishara in a 2020 interview -- he's now a member of the Celtics -- that he's received death threats from his home country, and though he views basketball as an escape from those nightmarish battles, that escape has been unavailable due to the coronavirus hiatus. He's continually criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while supporting Fethullah Gulen, another target of Turkish terrorism charges.

Another extremely difficult aspect of Kanter's strained relationship with Turkey is that they've had his father, Mehmet, locked up on terrorism charges. Mehmet Kanter, a genetics professor in Turkey, was also suspected to have been a supporter of Gulen, though Kanter thinks his own criticism of Erdogan led to those allegations (via Jenna West of Sports Illustrated). An official sentence was handed down in the summer of 2018.

But today, his son delivered news that has received an outpouring of happiness and support on social media.

Kanter credits the continual spotlight that he shined on the case with helping to exacerbate the release, but notes that "there are still tens of thousands of people wrongfully in jail in Turkey."

Kanter is recognized by the Human Rights Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in New York that aims to protect human rights across the world, as an "outspoken critic of Turkey's authoritarian regime" and was publicly disowned by his family as a result of the government's claims against him. Kanter said that he recognizes this act taken by his family as a way in which his father could protect his whole family from joining him in jail (via Jorge Cantu of Clutch Points).

Kanter will rejoin the Celtics as the NBA season resumes play in Disney World, fulfilling the backup center role and looking to build upon his already-impressive resume.

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