Turkish Government Sentences Father of New York Knicks Center to 15 Years in Prison

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan / Getty Images

The Turkish government has sentenced the father of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter to 15 years in prison, according to multiple reports.

An arrest warrant was issued for Dr. Mehmet Kanter Monday morning, but he was visiting family members outside of Istanbul at the time it was issued. He will either be arrested or surrender himself to Turkish authorities.

The Knicks center believes the government is targeting his family as a result of his outspoken criticism of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime.

"No matter what happens, I will continue to keep fighting for human rights and freedom of speech," Kanter said in a statement to Bleacher Report. "I will stand for what I believe in. All I’m doing is trying to be the voice of all these innocent people."

Kanter has criticized Erdogan’s harsh crackdown on his opposition in the past. He claimed the Turkish government has jailed protestors and silenced media outlets for challenging Erdogan’s rule.

Kanter openly supports Hizmet Movement founder Fethullah Gulen, who is largely blamed for inciting a coup in July 2016 to overthrow the Turkish government. Kanter’s family publicly disowned him after the coup because of his support for Gulen. Still, Turkish authorities sought to punish Kanter’s father by imprisoning him for five days in 2017 while they investigated him for a connection to the coup.

In May 2017, Enes was detained at a Romanian airport after his Turkish passport was canceled. He posted a video on social media where he called Erdogan a "dictator" and called him "the Hitler of our century."

Despite death threats and calls to turn himself into Turkish authorities, Kanter has vowed to keep fighting Erdogan’s government.

"I hope people around the world will open their eyes to the human rights abuses," Kanter said in The Players’ Tribune in May 2017. "Things have gotten very bad over the last year. Many people have been imprisoned without any real charges. There are reports of torture and rape and worse."