FILE PHOTO: Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter watches the final minutes of the game as his team, the New York Knicks, plays the Washington Wizards at the O2 Arena in London on his television in White Plains, New York, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter, a vocal critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, teamed up with two Democratic U.S. senators on Tuesday as they introduced a bill to condemn the alleged violation of human rights in Turkey.
As Erdogan arrived in the United States for a White House meeting on Wednesday with U.S. President Donald Trump, Senators Edward Markey and Ron Wyden held up Kanter as a victim of the Turkish government’s targeting of political rivals.
Turkey seeks the international arrest and extradition of the Boston Celtics center over his links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Kanter has also had his passport canceled and has not been able to travel abroad with his team.
“President Erdogan is conducting one of the biggest campaigns to restrict rights and freedoms anywhere in the world,” said Markey, pointing to the arrests or imprisonment of 80,000 citizens and closure of associations and media organizations in opposition to the government.
Kanter said Americans should feel “very lucky and blessed” to have a country with democracy, freedom and human rights.
“Sadly none of this is in my country but it’s just amazing to see support from not just two of these gentlemen but from my teammates, from my coaches and from all these fans,” Kanter said. “So that is why I cannot thank America enough.”
Reporting by Peter Bullock of Reuters TV; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Stephen Coates