Sen. Ron Wyden (D, OR) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of Portland Trail Blazers player Enes Kanter, asking for his “safe passage” to and from Canada for all Western Conference Finals games against Toronto.
Enes Kanter, a native of Turkey, has publicly aligned himself with the political opposition of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government has revoked the player’s passport and issued an arrest warrant for him, ESPN reported.
The threat of arrest has caused Kanter to refuse to travel outside the U.S. for fear that officials at a foreign port might detain him for deportation back to Turkey and certain political imprisonment.
But Sen. Wyden is asking Canada to commit to ensuring that Kanter remain free of arrest and from being sent to Turkey when or if he travels to Canada to play the Toronto Raptors.
“I ask your government to facilitate Mr. Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada should the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Canada, in the upcoming NBA Finals,” Wyden’s letter reads. “I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr. Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey.”
Trudeau’s government has been queried about the situation by several media outlets but has thus far not issued any definitive statements on whether they would acquiesce to Turkey’s arrest warrant.
The country’s immigration department claimed it could not comment publicly about individual cases but added, “we are committed to ensuring that every case is assessed fairly, on its merits and in accordance with Canada’s laws.”
“I have full confidence to myself and my team to win the Western Conference finals,” Kanter told ESPN. “Going to Toronto will be a bit hectic for me for the reasons you know, and I know Senator Wyden is working hard to make sure that I can make it, and I really appreciate it.”
Kanter, who is going through the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, thanked Sen. Wyden for the efforts on his behalf. But the player also had harsh words for the Erdogan regime.
“On another note, even if Senator Wyden and PM Trudeau does their best, Dictator Erdogan will try using/abusing all his powers to manipulate red notice system through Interpol,” Kanter added. “As you know, I am a law-abiding citizen both in Turkey and here in the U.S. — I never broke a single law in my life, didn’t even have a parking ticket, but Turkish government cancels my passport … WHY? It’s simply because I’m an outspoken critic of Dictator Erdogan. So, Erdogan might push all his chances through Interpol, which I believe he tries abusing it.
“Interpol should not let itself to get abused by any Dictator regime, including Erdogan’s,” Kanter concluded. “No matter whatever they do, I won’t back down from my fight in the path of democracy, uplifting human rights and freedom of speech.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.