Turkey seeks extradition for Knicks' Enes Kanter over ties to dissident cleric

By Christopher Brito

/ CBS News

Knicks' Enes Kanter on travel fears

Turkish prosecutors are seeking the arrest and extradition of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter on charges of being a member of an "armed terrorist group," the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Tuesday. Kanter, a native of Turkey and a harsh critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has long been a target of the Turkish government over his outspoken support for a dissident cleric who the government blames for a failed 2016 military coup.

Prosecutors in Istanbul have sought to issue a "red notice" through Interpol, which alerts authorities around the world to individuals with pending extradition orders. Kanter, who recently decided against traveling to London for a game on Thursday against the Washington Wizards for fears of getting killed by Turkish operatives, responded to the news on Twitter Wednesday.

"Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing," he tweeted. "I don't even have a parking ticket in the US (True). I have always been a law-abiding resident."

Kanter's feud with Erdogan goes back years. The NBA veteran was critical of Erdogan following the failed coup attempt in the Turkish capital of Ankara in 2016. Erdogan placed responsibility for the attempt on Gulen, an influential Islamic cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. Months after the coup attempt, Erdogan told "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft he wanted the U.S. to extradite Gulen to Turkey.

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

Kanter spoke to CBSN last week about his international ordeal and why he fears for his life.

"If I'm in America, I'm safe. I feel very safe," Kanter said. "But if I step outside of America, it will be a very dangerous situation. I'm facing lots of arrest [warrants]."

He told CBSN he originally planned to travel with the team for the international NBA showcase, despite restrictions that would be imposed by team officials for his safety. Kanter said he wanted to be with his team, but the Knicks front office eventually decided to err on the side of caution.

"I'm not going to risk my life to go there, when Erdogan's long arms [are] everywhere," he said.

He also stressed that he has no visa issues, showing CBSN a copy of a travel document allowing him to fly internationally. He's currently a green card holder and is on track to be a U.S. citizen in 2021.

First published on January 16, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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