Turkish NBA player Kanter emerges as major anti-Erdoğan figure

Enes Kanter, the Turkish NBA star viewed as a fugitive by his own country for his membership in an outlawed religious movement, has found political stardom as a leading dissident against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, The Hill said on Friday.

"Standing almost seven feet tall, the Swiss-born Turkish athlete has built himself an impressive contact list of high-profile U.S. politicians and D.C. insiders as he navigates his role as an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a defender of human rights," The Hill said.

Kanter is a wanted man in Turkey thanks to his support for the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt in July 2016.

The Boston Celtics centre has called Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the “Hitler of the century,” and his criticism of Turkey has found a ready audience in Washington, where anti-Turkish sentiment is quite common.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of congressmen, congresswomen, presidential candidates. So I'm like, you know what, why not just become one?” Kanter said during an interview with The Hill.

Turkey has arrested tens of thousands of alleged followers of the Gülen movement on terrorism charges and closed dozens of media outlets.

Turkey cancelled Kanter's passport in 2017 and has issued a warrant for his arrest on terrorism charges.

"Kanter has since found a welcome audience on Capitol Hill where Congress has struggled to punish Turkey for a number of offenses, including its purchase of Russian weapons system in violation of U.S. sanctions and Erdoğan’s incursion into northeastern Syria against Kurdish forces allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS," The Hill said.