Turkish government seeks 4-year prison sentence for Knicks center Enes Kanter

The Turkish government is seeking at least a four-year prison term for New York Knicks center Enes Kanter because of insulting remarks he made about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter in May and June 2016, according to the Associated Press. And, yes, this is the world we live in in 2017.

A Turkish judge issued an arrest warrant for Kanter in mid-May of this year, when an Istanbul-based prosecutor pointed to the 25-year-old’s social media account as evidence of his alleged “membership of an armed terrorist organization.” To which Kanter responded on Twitter: “You can’t catch me. Don’t waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces.”

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Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Apr 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Omri Casspi (18) in the second half at Target Center. The Thunder won 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) drives to the basket in front of Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) fouls Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Enes Kanter of Turkey speaks to reporters at a media availability session ahead of the 2011 NBA Draft in New York, June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
May 24, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) battle for the ball during the second half in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Turkish NBA Player Enes Kanter speaks to media during a news conference about his detention at a Romanian airport on May 22, 2017 in New York City. Kanter returned to the U.S. after being detained for several hours at a Romanian airport following statements he made criticizing Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 23: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 9: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets on April 9, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 26: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets on March 26, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 11: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a lay up during a game against the Utah Jazz on March 11, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann argued then that the extradition of Kanter would be extremely unlikely, and therefore the arrest warrant posed little threat to him in the United States. According to the AP on Wednesday, he will be tried in absentia.

Kanter has been an outspoken critic of the Turkish president and a longtime supporter of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic cleric who Erdogan blamed for orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016. Kanter evaded Turkey’s secret service during an Indonesian stop on his charitable foundation’s tour in May, only to be detained in a Romanian airport after Turkey canceled his passport. He soon returned stateside once high-ranking members of the U.S. government and NBA intervened on his behalf.

Kanter has received multiple death threats for his views on Erdogan. He also believes his criticism of the Turkish president led to him being left off the national team for the 2015 EuroBasket tournament.

Kanter, obviously, considered the Turkish government’s actions a response to his political views. As the events unfolded earlier this year, Kanter called Erdogan “the Hitler of our century” who “staged a fake coup then started genociding his opposites.” In an interview with Vice News following the arrest warrant, Kanter said he believes the Turkish government would kill him if he were imprisoned.

Turkish officials arrested Kanter’s father in what the NBA player believes was a warning this past June, even though his family had publicly disowned him for his political views and Kanter said he “would sacrifice my mother, my father and whole family for Gulen’s sake.” This is how strongly he opposes a president who the United Nations accused of creating an “environment conducive to torture” and whose rise has resulted in what the New York Times called “an almost untrammeled grip on power.”

“Right now, even if I try to communicate with my parents, my mom or dad or brother or sister, [the government] will probably listen to their phones and as soon as they are in contact with me, they will put them in a jail — and the jails are not fun,” Kanter said at the time of his father’s arrest, via ESPN. “Right now, my family can’t even go out to eat. My brother told me that my dad went to the supermarket and they spit on his face.”

A Turkish court ordered the supervised release of Kanter’s father on June 7. He has reportedly not spoken to his parents for more than a year and is unsure if he will ever be able to return to Turkey.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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