Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter has been released from the airport in Bucharest, Romania, and is on a flight to London after he was detained for what he said were political reasons relating to his opposition of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a video posted from the airport to Twitter on Saturday morning, the Turkish national said he arrived in Bucharest to find that his passport had been canceled by his country’s embassy and called Erdogan “the Hitler of our century.”
I’m being held at Romanian airport by Police!! pic.twitter.com/uYZMBqKx54
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 20, 2017
“What’s up, world? Just want to say we are in Romania and they said they canceled my passport by Turkish embassy,” Kanter said. “The reason behind is just of course my political views and the guy who did it is … the president of Turkey. … He’s attacked the people in Washington, he’s a bad, bad man, he’s a dictator and he’s the Hitler of our century. So I’ll keep you posted, guys, just pray for us.”
Kanter was on a worldwide tour for the Enes Kanter Foundation, which provides meals and clothing to the needy worldwide. He arrived in Bucharest on a flight from Singapore and had remaining stops in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland that likely will be canceled.
“Today at around 1 p.m. local time an individual arrived from Frankfurt,” Fabian Badila, a spokesman for the Romanian border police, said in an interview with the New York Times. “My colleagues established that his travel documents weren’t valid, that they had been canceled by his home country, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the country.
“At around 5 p.m., he left the airport on a flight to London,” Badila continued. “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.”
Indeed, Kanter’s forced stay at the airport didn’t seem to be particularly taxing.
Hank Fetic, one of Kanter’s representatives, told the Oklahoman’s Brett Dawson that the Turkish government often reports citizens’ passports as stolen or missing to have them confiscated in foreign countries, and that appears to be the case in this instance. If he had been deported to Turkey, he could have faced arrest.
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) May 20, 2017
In his Twitter video, Kanter referred to Tuesday’s clash outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington between guards for Erdogan, who was visiting the U.S. capital, and people who were peacefully protesting his policies. Video of the fracas went viral, leading to outrage and calls for the ambassador’s expulsion from the United States.
The Thunder big man, who was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents and claims Turkish citizenship, has long been a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is accused of being the mastermind behind a failed, bloody coup attempt against Erdogan last year. Kanter’s family disowned him after he continued his support of the cleric last year, leading him to informally change his last name to Gulen last year.