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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

NBA player critical of Erdogan cancels London trip over assasination fears

Enes Kanter claimed London was full of Turkish spies who could kill him

Enes Kanter (R) has had his Turkish passport cancelled by Ankara. EPA.
Enes Kanter (R) has had his Turkish passport cancelled by Ankara. EPA.

A high-profile basketball player will not travel to London for an NBA match amid his concerns he “could get killed” over his highly critical comments of Turkish president Tayyip Recep Erdogan.

Enes Kanter, who is originally from Turkey and a supporter of the banned Gulen movement, was due to play for the New York Knicks against the Washington Wizards on January 17.

“Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president. There's a chance that I can get killed out there,” Mr Kanter told reporters on Friday night.

"It's pretty sad that just all this stuff affects my career in basketball, because I want to be out there helping my team win. But just because of that one lunatic guy, one maniac or dictator, I can't even go out there and just do my job,” he added.

Mr Kanter, 26, also claimed London was host to a large amount of Turkish spies and, as such, he could “get killed pretty easy.” He said he could not visit any other country other than Canada or the USA.

He described Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the Turkish-proscribed movement who also currently resides in the USA, as a “cool dude." Followers of Mr Gulen have been accused by the Turkish government of being behind a 2016 attempted coup d’etat. Tens of thousands of alleged plotters have been rounded up by Ankara in an ongoing purge of rivals to Mr Erdogan. Mr Kanter has described the president as a modern day Adolf Hitler.

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In May 2017 he had his Turkish passport cancelled, was briefly stranded in Romania and had an arrest warrant issued for him by Turkey’s government. In 2016, after the failed coup, Mr Kanter’s family publicly chastised him for his anti-Erdogan comments and his father would later lose a job at a university in Turkey.

Mr Kanter, who plays as a centre, has played over 500 games in the NBA and started 71 games for the New York Knicks during the 2017-18 season.

In November a UK court blocked the extradition of another prominent critic of Mr Erdogan over fears the man, Akin Ipek, would face a politically motivated and unfair trial.

Updated: January 6, 2019 05:24 PM

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