Political stance reason for holdup in Romania: Kanter

According to the Romanian border police, Enes Kanter's travel documents were cancelled by Turkey, his home country.
According to the Romanian border police, Enes Kanter's travel documents were cancelled by Turkey, his home country.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Enes Kanter, a Turkish citizen who is a six-year veteran of the National Basketball Association (NBA), found himself in an apparent political tussle on Saturday.

His predicament began at a Romanian airport and ended hours later in London, with the player proclaiming on Twitter that he would continue on to New York to hold a news conference.

What he seems certain to talk about is his outspoken opposition to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and how that stance seemed to have led to Saturday's chain of events, in which the NBA ultimately asked for the US State Department's help in assisting Kanter.

The day started with Kanter, a centre for the Oklahoma City Thunder, saying in a video posted on Twitter that he had been detained at the Bucharest airport, with authorities telling him that his passport had been cancelled.

Kanter said his political opposition to Turkey's president was the reason for the detention. Hours later, Romanian authorities said he was free to go.

Fabian Badila, a spokesman for the Romanian border police, said Kanter had arrived on a flight from Frankfurt at about 1pm.

"My colleagues established that his travel documents weren't valid," Badila said.

"They had been cancelled by his home country, so he wasn't allowed to enter the country.

"At around 5pm, he left the airport on a flight to London. While he was at the airport, he wasn't detained or locked up. He was allowed to wander around but he couldn't enter the country."

Later on Saturday, Kanter posted a message on Twitter saying that he was safe in London, with New York his next stop.

The NBA said it had worked with the State Department to ensure Kanter's release in Romania.

The detention occurred while Kanter was in the midst of a tour for his Enes Kanter Light Foundation.

"You guys know him by, you know, he has attacked the people in Washington," Kanter said in the video, referring to a recent episode involving Erdogan's bodyguards and protesters in Washington.

"He is a bad man. He is a dictator and he is the Hitler of our century."

Kanter averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 72 games with the Thunder, who lost in the first round of the play-offs to the Houston Rockets.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Political stance reason for holdup in Romania: Kanter'. Print Edition | Subscribe