NBA player Kanter to seek Trump meeting over Turkey situation

Enes Kanter, the Portland Trail Blazers star wanted in Turkey for membership of an outlawed religious group, has said he is seeking a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump over the issue, the Portland Tribune reported on Saturday.

Kanter spoke to the Tribune a week after a programme on his legal troubles with Turkey aired on ESPN.

Turkish authorities have cancelled Kanter’s passport and issued him with an arrest warrant and Interpol red notice over his support for the Gülen religious movement, which Ankara says orchestrated for the July 2016 coup attempt.

After the coup attempt, Kanter publicly denounced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling him “this century’s Hitler” and affirming his support for the religious movement by informally taking the surname of Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric who leads the movement.

In Turkey, the Gülen movement is widely believed to have played a role in the coup attempt, having infiltrated state institutions including the judiciary, police department and military.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government carried out large-scale purges following the coup, jailing or sacking thousands of alleged Gülen movement members.

Those who faced punishment in Turkey include Kanter’s father, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for his alleged links to the movement.

However, the international pursuit of a high-profile NBA star has so far proven counterproductive.

Oregon senator Ron Wyden took Kanter’s cause to the senate floor last week, urging U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to warn Ankara to cease its pursuit of the basketball player.

"Nobody should have to go to bed at night worrying about one of these totalitarians, or the government caving in to the autocrats," the Portland Tribune quoted Wyden as saying after his senate speech.

Kanter hopes he can take the issue to an even higher level, the Tribune reported: the Blazers star has said he intends to press for a meeting with Trump this summer, after the basketball season has ended.

Such a meeting would run counter to Turkish lobbying and diplomatic efforts, which have been pushing for the extradition of Gülen since the coup attempt.

A U.S. delegation visited Turkey in January to discuss the case for extraditing Gülen.