Abdullah Bozkurt / Stockholm
Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball player Enes Kanter faces nine outstanding arrest warrants issued by Turkish authorities in intimidation campaign to quell dissent , suppress opposition voices and suppress freedom of expression.
According to official documents dated July 12, 2021 and obtained by Nordic Monitor, Turkish prosecutors have requested the arrest of Kanter for libel and terrorism, the two most abused criminal charges used by the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to punish critics, opponents and dissidents at home and abroad.
The 29-year-old NBA player received six arrest warrants for allegedly defaming President Erdoğan, Turkey’s oppressive leader who locked up tens of thousands of his critics for simply exercising their right to dissent and freedom of speech.
The warrants were issued in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 by investigating judges who head special courts known as the Criminal Peace Courts (Sulh Ceza Hakimlikleri, SCH) in the provinces of Istanbul, Ankara and Yozgat. The SCH court was the idea in 2014 of President Erdoğan, who called it a special project to track down his critics. The SCH court benches are made up of supporters and loyalists who act in accordance with Erdoğan’s wishes.
Despite being constantly threatened by the Turkish government and its proxies, Kanter has never shied away from criticizing the Erdoğan government’s catastrophic record of human rights violations and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. He has appeared in the US and international media to raise awareness of rights violations and abuses in Turkey.
An official document details nine arrest warrants issued against NBA player Enes Kanter on questionable charges:
The Stockholm Freedom Center reported in March 2021 that Turkish prosecutors investigated 128,872 people for insulting Erdoğan between 2014 and 2019, resulting in jail terms for nearly 10,000 people and many cases still pending. The crackdown targeted 318 minors aged 12 to 17 who were the subject of criminal investigations for contempt of the head of state.
Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) states that anyone who insults the President of the Republic faces a prison sentence of up to four years. This penalty can be increased by one sixth if it has national visibility, and by one third if it is committed by the press or the media. A total of 9,554 people were convicted of insulting the president.
In an opinion published in 2016, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe body specializing in constitutional issues and the rule of law, sounded the alarm bells on the abuse of defamation charges. She noted with concern the large number of investigations, prosecutions or convictions reported by the press for contempt of the president.
The European Commission also highlighted the abuse of defamation charges by President Erdoğan in his 2015 report and said: public, which can end in prison terms, suspended sentences or punitive fines.
An arrest warrant against Kanter was issued by an Istanbul court at the request of Erdoğan’s advisor Hidayet Türkoğlu, who filed a criminal complaint against Kanter for defamation. Using the weight of the president’s office, Türkoğlu has asked a prosecutor to indict Kanter, who faces up to four years in prison on that charge alone.
Türkoğlu, a former NBA player who was suspended in 2013 for violating the terms of the NBA anti-drug program, is also president of the Turkish Basketball Federation. Türkoğlu was pictured in 2019 with the head of an organized crime syndicate, Galip Öztürk, a pro-Erdoğan figure who fled abroad after being convicted of murder.
Two arrest warrants issued against Kanter stemmed from terrorism charges due to Kanter’s affiliation with the Gülen movement, a civic group that criticizes the Erdoğan regime. The movement is inspired by Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, an American resident and a staunch opponent of the Erdoğan government on a range of issues from pervasive corruption in the administration to Turkish aid and encouragement armed jihadist groups.
Erdoğan’s government branded Gülen a terrorist in 2014, immediately after major corruption investigations made public in December 2013 and which blamed Erdoğan, his family members and his political and business associates. He accused Gülen of being behind the corruption investigations, a claim which was denied by Gülen.
The Turkish president also accused Gülen of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 that actually helped Erdoğan consolidate power, dismantle the rule of law, oust parliament and remove checks and balances. to his government. Gülen denied having played a role in the coup attempt and called for an international investigation, a claim which was rejected by Erdoğan. The government has presented no evidence proving Gülen’s complicity in the failed coup.
Many believe the failed coup was a false flag operation orchestrated by Erdoğan and his intelligence and military chiefs to build the opposition for a crackdown. During the coup trials, evidence emerged that many agents of the intelligence agency had worked to make the limited military mobilization appear to be a bona fide coup attempt.
A total of 292,000 people affiliated with the movement have been arrested, while 96,000 others have been jailed over the past five years, according to a figure announced by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in September.
According to statistics published by the Council of Europe (CoE), in January 2020, out of 30,524 prisoners convicted of terrorism in the 47 CoE member states, 29,827 were in Turkey. In other words, 98% of all detainees convicted of terrorism across Europe reside in Turkey. It shows how the government is abusing its anti-terrorism laws to punish critics, opponents and dissidents in this country of 84 million people suffering under the iron fist of President Erdoğan.
The Turkish government also attempted to kidnap Kanter in 2017 while on a goodwill tour of Indonesia and had to leave the country for his safety. His passport was briefly seized by the Romanian police at the request of Erdoğan’s government, but he was able to return to the United States after the intervention of the NBA and representatives of the United States government.