The father of NBA center Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been cleared of terrorism charges, Turkish media reported on Friday, following a campaign by his son.
Mehmet Kanter, the father and a genetics professor in Turkey, was alleged to have supported US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Gulen denies any connection with the matter.
The NBA star's father was fired from his faculty position at Istanbul University and initially jailed for five days, Birgun newspaper reported. He was acquitted on Thursday by a court in northwestern Turkey, the newspaper and other media reported.
Further details on his clearance were not immediately available.
Enes Kanter’s parents publicly disowned him through a Turkish publication back in 2016, soon after the coup attempt.
“As soon as they are in contact with me, they (Turkish authorities) would put them in jail,” Kanter had repeatedly said.
“I don’t call it the Turkish legal system because it doesn’t serve the Turkish people with justice, but is for Erdogan and his interests only,” said Enes Kanter in a 2019 interview with Al Arabiya English.
Enes Kanter, a 28-year-old center for the Boston Celtics in the US National Basketball Association, was indicted in Turkey in 2018 on charges of belonging to an armed terrorist group, which he denies. He is now awaiting US citizenship.
“Turkey cannot be left to its own destiny in the hands of a lunatic dictator,” Kanter, who uses his public platform as a well-known NBA player to advocate on behalf of people in Turkey who can’t speak out in fear of arrest, told Al Arabiya English last September.
Turkey revoked Kanter’s passport in 2017 and he has since been unable to travel abroad.
“People know my story because I’m playing in the NBA, but there are thousands of families out there [in Turkey] and their stories are way worse than mine,” the Boston Celtics star explained.
Born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, Kanter’s role as a political critic began in 2013, when Erdogan began shutting down private college preparatory centers in Turkey. The clampdown was seen as a move against the popular cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Kanter supports, after protests against Erdogan’s authoritarianism in Gezi Park, Istanbul.
Thousands of Gulen’s followers were arrested or fired from their jobs in Turkey after the abortive coup.