Turkish court considers following NBA star on Twitter evidence of terrorism

New York's Enes Kanter (00) poses for a photo with a fan before during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

A court in İstanbul cited following Enes Kanter, an NBA player from Turkey and a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Twitter and reading news stories about him as evidence of terrorist organization membership, according to a document obtained by Nordic Monitor.

Documentary evidence certified by an expert report asserts that defendant Murat Güçlü, a former specialist at Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), followed Kanter on Twitter and read two news stories about him on his laptop. The document calls Kanter a “terrorist” despite the lack of any conviction of him by Turkey’s notorious judiciary. 

Interestingly enough, Güçlü is also accused of reading a book authored by now-lawmaker Ahmet Şık critical of the Gülen movement, in which Güçlü is charged with membership. What is more amazing is that Şık was also one of thousands of people who were arrested for aiding the Gülen movement following an abortive coup on July 15, 2016. The movement, led by Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, who criticizes the Erdoğan government on a number of issues, most particularly corruption and aiding jihadists, was labeled a terrorist organization immediately after July 15.

Güçlü was arrested on terrorism charges on August 24, 2016. It became clear during police and prosecutor interrogations that the real reason he was detained dated back to 2013, when a graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan as well as members of his family, cabinet ministers and senior figures from his Justice and Development Party (AKP). One of the accusations was accepting bribes from Reza Zarrab, an Iranian money launderer, in a sanctions-busting scheme run through Turkish state-owned Halkbank to circumvent US sanctions on Iran. After suspicious illegal bank activities were exposed, specialists at the BDDK were accused of cooperating with law enforcement officers involved in the graft investigation, many of whom were purged and later sentenced to life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

A presidential decree exempt from parliamentary scrutiny or judicial adjudication in 2018 ordered that the BDDK would be overseen by Berat Albayrak, the finance minister and Erdoğan’s son-in-law.

On October 16, US federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York indicted Halkbank on six counts including fraud, money laundering and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion dollar scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

Hakan Atilla, the former deputy general manager of Halkbank, was previously sentenced to 32 months for conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran.

The extraordinary document shows that prosecutors were unable to find anything illegal concerning Güçlü and the graft probe and therefore pursued absurd pretexts for prosecuting him by inventing new crimes that have no basis in law.

The Erdoğan government continues to point to Kanter as a target. A court in January 2019 ordered Turkey to request that Interpol issue a Red Notice for the Boston Celtics center on allegations of membership in a terrorist organization due to his close connections to Gülen.

Turkey had revoked Kanter’s passport in 2017 and attempted to have him deported him from Romania during one of his international trips. The NBA administration had reportedly sought the State Department’s help in facilitating Kanter’s secure arrival in the US.

In 2017 Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, a professor at Namık Kemal University, was dismissed from his job and briefly detained as part of an intimidation campaign against Enes.

Lastly, Kanter was verbally attacked by Erdoğan’s thugs outside a Boston mosque on October 4, 2019 immediately after a meeting in New York attended by Albayrak, Defense Minster Hulusi Akar and Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan at which Erdoğan supporters expressed discomfort that young children were taking photos with him after Friday prayers. AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik told the audience that it had been duly noted, implying that necessary measures would be taken. 

Kanter has frequently said he receives death threats from supporters of Erdoğan and his shady network in the US.

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