Oklahoma City Thunder’s Turkish star Enes Kanter said Monday he plans to seek US citizenship and has been receiving death threats as a result of his outspoken criticism of his homeland’s president.
Kanter, who has compared Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Adolf Hitler, was detained in Romania at the weekend after being informed that his Turkish passport had been cancelled.
The 25-year-old Swiss-born star said the abrupt cancellation of his passport was linked to his criticism of Erdogan’s government.
Speaking at a press conference at the NBA headquarters in New York on Monday, Kanter said he now planned to become a US citizen.
“Right now I am country-less,” Kanter said. “I am going to try to become an American citizen. I have a green card. We will see if they can speed up the process a little bit. It would definitely be nice. Right now my next move is becoming an American citizen,” Kanter said.
Kanter said he had feared at one stage that he might be deported from Romania to Turkey.
“It was of course scary,” said Kanter, who returned to the United States on Sunday.
“It was scary because there was a chance they might send me back to Turkey. And if they send me back to Turkey, probably you guys wouldn’t hear a word from me the second day.
“It would have definitely gotten really ugly.”
Kanter said his political views had led to him receiving death threats “every day” on social media, including at least two on Monday.
The Turkish star used Monday’s press conference to again blast Erdogan, accusing the Turkish leader of seeking to muzzle anyone critical of his policies.
“He’s a terrible man,” Kanter said Monday. “I hope the world does something about it. … I hope the whole world is watching. Once these people get to jail, it’s not over for them.
“People are getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, and raped. I love my country, but I’m just trying to speak up for innocent people. … There are thousands of people out there with situations worse than mine.”
Kanter said he now fears for the security of his extended family, adding that he does not attempt to communicate with them.
“If they contact me, they’ll be put in jail,” Kanter said. “The jails are not fun.”
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