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New York Knicks basketball star Enes Kanter to miss London game over assassination fears

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A New York basketball player has said he will not travel to London for an upcoming game because he fears he could be assassinated over his opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Enes Kanter made the announcement after the New York Knicks beat the LA Lakers 119-112 on Friday, saying he would remain in New York as his team travels to face Washington at the O2 arena in London on 17 January.

The Knicks said the 26-year-old Turkish professional basketball player would not make the trip because of a visa issue.

Kanter says he cannot travel anywhere except the US and Canada because “there’s a chance I could get killed out there”.

Enes Kanter #00 of the New York Knicks plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on January 01, 2019 in Denver, Colorado
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Kanter is a vocal critic of Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“Sadly, I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,” he said.

“It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there and help my team win.

“But just because of the one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.”

Kanter, who plays centre position, has been a vocal critic of Mr Erdogan for years, and once referred to him as “the Hitler of our century”.

His Turkish passport was revoked in 2017 and an international warrant for his arrest was issued by Turkey.

The basketball star is a follower of a US-based Turkish cleric accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding a failed military coup in 2016.

He said it would be “easy” for an attempt on his life to be made in London.

“They’ve got a lot of spies there,” he added. “I think I can get killed there easy. It would be a very ugly situation.”

Kanter’s father, Mehmet, was indicted last year and charged with “membership of a terror group”.

It followed an investigation of the former professor, who lost his job, despite publicly disavowing his son and his beliefs.

The basketball player wrote in a column for Time magazine last year: “People often ask me why I continue to speak out if it’s hurting my family.

“But that’s exactly why I speak out. The people Erdogan is targeting are my family, my friends, my neighbours, my classmates. I need to speak out, or my country will suffer in silence.”

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