What goes missing in Vice News interview about Turkish NBA player?

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What goes missing in Vice News interview about Turkish NBA player?

2017-07-06 09:59 BST
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Interview in Vice News claims that Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter is only “a new and unlikely voice of dissent” but ignores his links to terrorism

NBA player Enes Kanter

On 29 June 2017, Vice News released an interview in which Enes Kanter, a Turkish-born NBA player, was presented as “a new and unlikely voice of dissent” in Turkey. His passport annulment by Turkish authorities was also shown as an example of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents.

Kanter is, apart from having career in the NBA, one of the most well-known followers of Fetullah Gulen, the head of an organization known as FETO, which is on Turkey’s terror list. A Turkish court has issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, who lives in the US, over his alleged links to an attempted coup in Turkey last year.   

FETO, which Kanter says he is proudly a member of, is strongly believed to have plotted the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. James Jeffrey, the US ambassador to Turkey between 2008 and 2010, said in an interview that: “The Gülenist movement has some infiltration at the least in the military that I am aware of. They of course had extreme infiltration into the police and judiciary earlier. I had seen that when I was in Turkey previously, particularly in the Sledgehammer case, [the National Intelligence Organization head] Hakan Fidan case [and the] corruption cases in 2013. It is very clear that significant segment of the bureaucracy in Turkey were infiltrated in and had their allegiance to a movement, not a state. That of course is absolutely unacceptable and extremely dangerous. And it highly likely that it has led to the [attempted] coup.”  

Kanter’s emotional commitment to this cult is so high that his Twitter account is full of statements defending Gulen and his organization. He once even stated that: “It is announced to the entire universe! Write, history: even if you hang, cut or kill me, I swear to God, I never give up following neither my Imam nor the Service”. Last August, Kanter’s father, Mehmet, wrote a letter in which he pointed out he disowned him and put forward the idea that his son had been hypnotized by Gulen. Following this development, Enes Kanter cut ties with his family and declared that he had adopted Gulen’s last name: Enes Gulen.

Kanter (or Gulen) has been on the front burner for the last few months after he was held by police at an airport in Romania when the Turkish government cancelled his passport. He thereupon posted a video on social media, in which he stated: “You know because the reason behind it is just of course my political views.” Just like the Vice News interview, The Express Tribune and Huffington Post attributed the annulment to his opposition to President Erdogan.

Kanter is also, according to a CBS News report, identified by Turkish prosecutors as a user of ByLock, which is an encrypted chat application completely used by FETO members to avoid government supervision. The application was also actively used by FETO-linked putschists, in particular, to organize the attempted coup before July 15, 2016. ByLock was created to be used only by FETO members. Although it was used by approximately 215,000 users, more than a dozen security and messaging experts contacted by Reuters had never heard of ByLock until it was mentioned by the Turkish authorities.

CBS News reported that the Turkish prosecutors have, following their identification related to Kanter’s use of ByLock, sought an international red notice from Interpol in order to locate and arrest him.