NBA Star Enes Kanter declared ‘terrorist’ and has a $500,000 Reward Put on His Head in Turkey
Former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom has a bounty of $500,000 set on his head by Turkey. Since publicly criticising Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2013, the Turkish-American basketball player has been embroiled in major legal issues in Turkey.
The sum of ten million Turkish Lira (about $500,000) is being offered by the Turkish government for information leading to Freedom’s apprehension.
Freedom is on a wanted list of people suspected of being terrorists in Turkey. Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan’s regime has continued to crack down on opponents and dissidents. In 2021, Freedom completed his citizenship requirements to legally dwell in the United States.
Freedom expressed concern to the New York Post about the price being placed on his head. That’s why it’s so risky, the ex-NBA player said. “Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence were after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money.”
The basketball player went on to remark, “Because of my platform, whenever I say something, it goes everywhere and the Turkish government hates that, They’re really sick of it, and they said ‘enough is enough’ and are doing whatever they can to shut me up.”
Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, human rights organisations and NGOs in Turkey have been critical of the government’s stance on free speech in the country. Many journalists and others seen to be excessively critical of Erdogan’s leadership have been imprisoned in Turkey since then.
Human Rights Watch claims that “Turkey’s human rights record has indeed been put back by decades” due to the autocratic and highly centralised presidential regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Both on and off the court, Freedom has been a vocal opponent of the Erdogan regime. He has referred to the Turkish president as “the Hitler of our century” and a “dictator” on separate occasions.
During the “Step On Tyranny” campaign held by the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway last year, Freedom was captured stepping on a portrait photo of Erdogan.
There has been a price to pay for the NBA star’s vocal criticism of the Turkish government. Freedom’s family had already been under intense investigation during the Turkish purges of 2016 and 2017 before Turkey put a reward on him.
His family disowned him after he publicly declared his support for Gülen soon after the failed coup attempt. A week later, edict 272 forced his father’s resignation from his post at a Turkish university.
Turkish authorities have asked Interpol to put out a red alert for the basketball player’s arrest after submitting an extradition request for him in 2019. However, it appears that Interpol has not cooperated.
After becoming a naturalised citizen of the United States in November 2021, Enes Kanter decided to adopt the surname “Freedom” in honour of the occasion. The activist basketball player has kept his middle name, Kanter.