Tuesday 8 January 2019 07:35, UK
Former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, now a chief advisor to Turkey president Recip Tayyip Erdogun, rebuked Enes Kanter's fears about his homeland as a 'smear campaign'.
Kanter said last week he would not join the Knicks for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks in London on January 17 because he fears he might be murdered by Turkish spies for his criticism of Erdogan.
"There's a chance that I can get killed out there," Kanter said. "They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily.
"It's pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball. Because I want to be out there but just because of that one lunatic guy, that one maniac, I can't go out there and do my job."
Turkoglu, who played for six NBA clubs from 2000-2015, called Kanter's comments "delusions" and cited the Knicks saying Kanter, whose passport was cancelled by the Turkish embassy in May 2017, would not travel due to visa issues.
"In other words, Kanter cannot enter the UK not because of fears for his life but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks," Turkoglu said in a statement posted on Twitter.
"Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career."
"Kanter not only targeted the Republic of Turkey, governed by the rule of law, but he also regarded the British security forces as weak and attempted to harm Turkish-British relations. It's obvious this person's remarks are irrational and distort the truth."
Kanter fired back with a tweet of his own showing his travel document with key details blocked out.
"It's NOT a visa issue," Kanter wrote. "I CAN go to London. Either you are delusional or still Erdogan's lap dog. Keep wagging your tail @hidoturkoglu15."
In December 2017 Turkish prosecutors demanded Kanter be jailed for more than four years on charges of insulting Erdogan, according to Turkish state media reports.
Kanter, who was born in Switzerland and selected third overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, has voiced support for Erdogan opponent Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in exile in the United States since 1999.