Enes Kanter lives his life a little differently these days.
The newest member of the Portland Trail Blazers center announced Wednesday he would not travel with his team to Toronto for Friday’s game against the Raptors because he fears that he’ll be arrested if he leaves the country.
According to Kanter, the Turkish government reportedly requested an INTERPOL "Red Notice" for the NBA star in January for his alleged ties to exiled U.S. based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Kanter has openly supported. (More on that in a moment.)
"A month ago, the Turkish government put my name on Interpol,” Kanter told NBCS Northwest on Wednesday. “They’re looking for a 'Red Notice', so it’s pretty crazy.”
His denounciation of the current Turkish leadership has been well documented.
Kanter, a native to Turkey, is a vocal critic of Turkish Recep Tayip Erdogan, the country’s president. Erdogan has accused Gülen, who the Turkish government has branded a terrorist organization known as FETO, of plotting a failed coup attempt in 2016. Gülen has vehemently denied these accusations.
Because Kanter is an avid supporter of Gülen with an alleged connection to the Muslim cleric, the Turkish government wants him arrested on charges of supporting a terrorist organization.
Kanter has denounced the Turkish government’s claims, saying the country has yet to produce a “single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing.”
So, what is INTERPOL and what is a "Red Notice," exactly?
INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 194 member countries, according to its official website.
Our role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place.
According to the INTERPOL site, a "Red Notice" is used to locate and “provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition.” The purpose of the "Red Notice" is to inform other countries that a person is wanted based on an arrest warrant. That person, however, is considered innocent until proven guilty. As well, just because a country requests a "Red Notice" does not necessarily guarantee one would be issued.
When conducting a search of INTERPOL's database for current "Red Notices" against Kanter, none are publicly available at this time. A "Red Notice" may be issued for Kanter, but that information would only be available to authorized entites to view and verify.
The General Secretariat, the internal INTERPOL agency that handles such requests, can refuse to publish a notice if it is considered unadvisable or a potential risk.
Kanter's long history with law enforcement
What is going on with Kanter is nothing new. In 2017, he was stopped and detained at an airport in Romania after his passport had been canceled by the Turkish government.
The NBA, State Department and Oklahoma senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford all worked on Kanter’s behalf to get him back to the U.S. He was able to fly to London and then to New York City and was able to enter the country by showing his green card to Homeland Security personnel.
“The 'Red Notice' came a little bit after that,” Kanter told The Daily Beast in a Nov. 2018 article.
On Jan. 17 of this year, Kanter, who was then a member of the New York Knicks, chose not to travel with his team to London to play the Washington Wizards, citing potential dangers on his life. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there," he told reporters. "They've got a lot of spies there. I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation."
Kanter, who has found sanctuary in the USA, HAS left the country, however. He has made three trips with NBA teams to Toronto since the attempted coup d'état of the Turkish regime in 2016, most recently as Nov. 10, 2018 when he was a member of the NY Knicks.
It's not immediately clear whether there is renewed pressure/notice with new charges by the Turkish government or a continuation of the same, but Kanter and the Trail Blazers are being cautious. Rightfully so.
Kanter could become a U.S. citizen in 2021. Under U.S. immigration law, Kanter is eligible to become naturalized citizen upon completion of five years as a permanent resident. Additionally, he would need to pass a background check and pass an English and civics test. Finally, Kanter would need to interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials and receive a favorable review.
Kanter said it’s disappointing that he can’t be with the Trail Blazers as they travel to Toronto. Portland is riding a five-game winning streak heading into Friday’s matchup.
“Just because of one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job,” Kanter said. “It’s definitely sad…I just want to keep growing with this team.”
The Trail Blazers center will remain in Boston before joining Portland in Charlotte on Sunday game against the Hornets.
Peter Socotch contributed to the research and writing of this report.