Turkish government sentences Enes Kanter's father, Mehmet, to 15 years in prison

Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4899/" data-ylk="slk:Enes Kanter">Enes Kanter</a> was detained at a Romanian airport last year after his Turkish passport was canceled. (Getty Images)
Enes Kanter was detained at a Romanian airport last year after his Turkish passport was canceled. (Getty Images)

In what New York Knicks center Enes Kanter believes is retaliation for his opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tyrannical regime, the Turkish government has sentenced Kanter’s father, Mehmet, to 15 years in jail for “being a member of a terrorist organization,” per multiple reports.

Turkish prosecutors alleged that Mehmet Kanter has been in contact with more than 100 supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic cleric who Erdogan publicly suspected of organizing a failed coup attempt and labeled a terrorist in 2016. Enes Kanter has been a longtime vocal supporter of Gulen.


“No matter what happens, I will continue to keep fighting for human rights and freedom of speech; justice and democracy above all,” the younger Kanter said in statements to ESPN and Bleacher Report. “I will stand for what I believe in. All I’m doing is trying to be the voice of all those innocent people.”

The United Nations has admonished Erdogan for creating an “environment conducive to torture,” and The New York Times reported that the Turkish president has “an almost untrammeled grip on power.”

Enes Kanter’s opposite to Erdogan

This past December, the Turkish government also sought a prison sentence for Enes Kanter for criticisms he leveled against Erdogan on Twitter in May and June 2016, although it was always extremely unlikely the seven-year NBA veteran would ever be extradited from the United States.

A Turkish judge issued an arrest warrant for Enes Kanter in May 2016, accusing him of being a member of “an armed terrorist organization.” To which the 26-year-old responded on Twitter: “You can’t catch me. Don’t waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces.” This after the younger Kanter called Erdogan “the Hitler of our century,” accusing the Turkish president of staging a fake coup in an attempt to legitimize “genocide” against his opposition.

Enes Kanter evaded Turkey’s secret service during an Indonesian stop on his charitable foundation’s tour in May 2016 before being detained in a Romanian airport when the Turkish government canceled his passport. High-ranking officials in the U.S. government and NBA ensured his safe return to the U.S. He has said he believes Erdogan’s regime would have him killed if he were imprisoned in Turkey.

‘I would sacrifice … my whole family for Gulen’s sake’

Enes Kanter’s family publicly disowned him for his allegiance to Gulen in August 2016, and he responded on Twitter, “I would sacrifice my mother, father and whole family for Gulen’s sake. I would give my head for this case.” Still, Turkish officials arrested Mehmet Kanter in June 2017 before releasing him five days later under government supervision. At that time, Enes Kanter had not spoken to his family in more than a year for fear of retaliation like the 15-year prison term his father currently faces.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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