SALEM, Ore. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants to ensure Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, a Turkish star whom Turkey wants arrested for his criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be able to safely travel to Canada for a possible NBA championship series against the Toronto Raptors.
The Oregon senator wrote Tuesday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking that his government facilitate Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada if the Blazers advance to the title series.
“I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr. Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey,” Wyden wrote. Wyden is a fan of his hometown team, often attending games, and he appeared in photos alongside the player who helped push the Blazers past the Denver Nuggets to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Blazers opened the conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. The Raptors face the Milwaukee Bucks in the other semifinal series. The NBA Finals begin May 30.
Turkish officials have sought a “red notice” - an international wanted notice - for Kanter through Interpol. Kanter’s Turkish passport was canceled in 2017. Kanter is a longtime critic of Erdogan.
Trudeau’s office referred a reporter’s request for comment to the immigration minister’s office. Mathieu Genest, a spokesman for the immigration minister, said Canada’s privacy laws prohibited him from commenting on specific cases, but he explained that “we are committed to ensuring that every case is assessed fairly, on its merits, and in accordance with Canada’s laws.”
A senior Canadian government official said they received the letter and are looking into the case. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the case, said the immediate facts before them suggest there is an abuse of Interpol’s red notice system but said they would have to study it further.
The official drew a parallel to the red notice case of American Bill Browder. The official said Canada made it clear Browder, a noted Russia critic, could visit and that it wasn’t Russia’s decision.
“This is similar. It’s up to Canada to decide whether to enforce,” the official said.
Wyden said Erdogan’s shameless threats to Kanter’s freedom resulted in him not traveling to Canada for an NBA game in March.
“If the Portland Trail Blazers and the Toronto Raptors both reach the NBA Finals, Mr. Kanter will again have to consider the security risks associated with work-related travel outside the United States,” Wyden told Trudeau.
Kanter has previously said he will seek a U.S. passport, but Wyden said Kanter doesn’t yet qualify for one.
If he has the opportunity to play in Canada with the Blazers, he could travel on a document issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Hank Stern, a Wyden spokesman. According to U.S. law, Kanter can be admitted back to the U.S. from Canada with only his green card, Stern said.
Associated Press reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Canada, contributed to this report.
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