House Republicans are calling on President Joe Biden to consider sanctions against Turkish officials and entities behind a $500,000 bounty for information leading to the capture of NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom.
Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Hern and GOP Rep. Brian Babin are spearheading a letter to the White House on Monday, obtained first by DailyMail.com, demanding the administration take ‘concrete steps’ against Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies. More than 40 House Republicans signed onto the letter.
Kanter Freedom, who amended his last name to celebrate gaining U.S. citizenship in 2021, is on the Turkish government’s 2023 most wanted list after years of speaking out against President Recep Erdoğan’s regime and its human rights abuses.
He said earlier this month that the Turkish government put a $500,000 bounty – about 10 million Lira – on information leading to his capture.
‘Mr. Kanter Freedom is a law-abiding U.S. citizen who has been outspoken about human rights across the world,’ lawmakers’ Monday letter to Biden read.
NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom was on Capitol Hill last week, updating the Republican Study Committee on his advocacy work and being wanted by Turkish officials (pictured: Kanter Freedom with RSC Chair Rep. Kevin Hern, who is spearheading the letter)
The Monday letter about the professional athlete’s persecution is also co-led by Rep. Brian Babin (left). House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (right) was also at last week’s meeting
Kanter Freedom is pictured shaking hands with Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds
‘The Turkish government has not provided evidence that Kanter Freedom has engaged in any illicit action, supported terrorism, or used violence against the Turkish state.’
They accused Turkey of targeting him for ‘exercising his fundamental rights in expressing political opinions, which are protected under the U.S. Constitution.’
Kanter Freedom was on Capitol Hill last week, when he joined the Republican Study Committee’s member lunch and updated lawmakers on his advocacy work as well as his struggles with the Turkish government. He also met with RSC lawmakers last year.
The basketball player’s use of his platform to speak out against Turkey’s authoritarianism while holding up the U.S. as a beacon of democracy has turned him into a walking symbol of the American dream for some.
In addition to criticizing Turkey, Kanter Freedom has also called out the regime in Beijing for its genocide of Uyghur Muslims and forced labor practices – despite China being a major NBA market.
Republican lawmakers are hoping his celebrity status will force the Biden administration to take a harder line against the repressive governments.
More than 40 House Republicans are calling on President Biden to crack down on Turkey over the bounty it put on information leading to Kanter Freedom’s capture
In their Monday letter to the president, Hern and Babin demanded that Biden look into whether any Turkish individuals or government-linked groups qualify for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the U.S. government to blacklist accused human rights offenders.
‘We are deeply concerned by the continuing deterioration of human rights and rule of law in Turkey. Under President Erdoğan, Turkey has grown increasingly authoritarian, with the government systematically detaining, prosecuting, and convicting political opponents, journalists, and critics of the President on charges of terrorism and insulting the President,’ they wrote.
‘We urge your administration to press the Turkish government on freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and other fundamental rights, specifically regarding the case of Enes Kanter Freedom.’
With regards to Biden’s meeting with Erdoğan at this month’s NATO summit, they’re calling on him to disclose whether Kanter Freedom’s persecution came up as a topic of discussion.
‘Has the Biden administration confronted the Turkish government with regard to threats issued by their government against Enes Kanter Freedom?’ the letter asked. ‘Will the Biden administration take concrete action to hold those Turkish persons or entities responsible for any human rights abuses against Enes Kanter Freedom?’
Biden met with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan earlier this month during the NATO summit
They’ve asked for Biden’s answers – along with a ‘full list’ of people linked to Kanter Freedom’s Turkish charges and ‘detailed justification regarding whether or not such persons or entities meet the criteria for sanctions’ – by February 3.
Kanter Freedom revealed details about the bounty leading to his capture in an interview with the New York Post earlier this month.
He told the outlet he’s got protection around the clock and remains in close contact with federal law enforcement while residing in Washington, DC.
But according to the professional athlete, there are people hiding from Turkey’s government who are in an even worse position than he is.
‘I’m speaking out because I am not the only one on that list,’ he reportedly said.
‘There are so many journalists, so many activists, and so many athletes, but they aren’t as well-known as me. They are way easier targets — and they’re alone out there.’