ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish prosecutors are seeking the extradition of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter over his links to the U.S.-based cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
Kanter, a vocal critic of President Tayyip Erdogan, was indicted by a Turkish court last year over alleged membership of an “armed terrorist group” after being contacted repeatedly by people close to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The Istanbul prosecutors’ office was not immediately available to comment on the report on Wednesday.
Anadolu said on Tuesday prosecutors had sought the issue of a “red notice” for Kanter, an Interpol request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition.
It said the extradition request includes social media comments made about Gulen by Kanter, who has often declared his support for the cleric.
Kanter took to Twitter to deny any wrongdoing.
“The Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing,” he said. “I don’t even have a parking ticket in the U.S. (True)
“I have always been a law-abiding resident.”
He later added: “The only thing I terrorize is the rim.”
Turkey previously revoked Kanter’s passport and declared him a fugitive for his support of Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of being behind the attempted putsch of July 2016 – an accusation Gulen denies.
In May 2017, Kanter was refused entry into Romania because of the cancellation of his Turkish passport.
Earlier this month, Kanter said he would not go to London for a game with his NBA team because he fears he could be assassinated for criticizing Erdogan.
“If it’s for his own safety I don’t want to see a guy get harmed,” Washington Wizards Sam Dekker, who will be up against the Knicks in London, told Reuters.
“Hopefully it will get worked out with him but it’s a tough situation. It’s never a good thing to see a guy not playing for personal reasons.”
Since the putsch attempt, some 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 150,000 state employees including teachers, judges and soldiers have been suspended or dismissed in a crackdown on alleged supporters of Gulen.
Kanter holds a U.S. green card that allows him to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Additional reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by David Dolan, William Maclean)