The Turkish government is requesting that New York Knicks center Enes Kanter be arrested and extradited to Turkey to face charges of being connected to a terrorist organization, according to CNN.
The news of the extradition request and an Interpol red notice for his arrest come weeks after Kanter, who is Turkish, said he will not travel with the team to a game in London out of fear that he could be arrested or killed by Turkish operatives.
"On Thursday, I won't be able to go to work when my team, the New York Knicks, plays the Washington Wizards in London," Kanter wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday. "It is altogether too risky. Erdogan uses Interpol, the international law enforcement organization with 194 member nations, as a tool to have critics arrested in other countries. I do not yet have U.S. citizenship or a U.S. passport, which could offer me protection, so I can't risk traveling overseas."
Why does Turkey want him arrested?
The specific allegation against Kanter relates to his connection to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of being the mastermind behind a 2016 coup attempt. Gulen has lived in Pennsylvania for the past 20 years in a "self-imposed exile," according to CNN.
Kanter has long denied any wrongdoing, and claims the Turkish government is simply seeking to silence a high-profile critic.
"Turkish government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing," Kanter wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "I don't even have a parking ticket in the US (true). I have always been a law-abiding resident."
"The only thing I terrorize is the rim," Kanter wrote in another tweet.
How long has this been an issue?
Kanter, an NBA veteran who has been consistently outspoken against Erdogan, has understood for a while that Turkish authorities have been seeking his arrest. In May 2017, Kanter was nearly stranded overseas when Turkey's embassy cancelled his passport while he was in Romania.
Kanter was attempting to get back to the U.S. after being forced to flee Indonesia because the Turkish government warned Indonesian authorities that he was dangerous. Kanter had been in Indonesia to run a children's basketball camp.
What is he doing while the team is gone?
While he was unable to go with his team to London, Kanter decided to use his free time to meet with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), among other lawmakers, this week. He and Rubio discussed Erdogan's persecution of critics and the dangers they could ose to Americans in Turkey.
"I do have reason to believe that the Turkish government under Erdogan views Americans and arresting Americans as a valuable leverage point, a concession they can give the U.S. government in exchange for some policy," Rubio said.