UPDATE ― 2:35 p.m.: Enes Kanter was released Saturday afternoon, Romanian officials told The New York Times.
“Today at around 1 p.m. local time an individual arrived from Frankfurt,” Fabian Badila, a spokesman for the Romanian border police, told the publication. “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.”
Badila told the Times that Kanter “wasn’t detained or locked up,” and was allowed to board a flight to London.
Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter says authorities detained him at a Romanian airport Saturday morning after the Turkish government suddenly canceled his passport over his political beliefs.
Kanter, who was born in Turkey, is in the middle of a global charitable tour and was traveling to Romania from Indonesia, ESPN reported. Instead, Romanian police detained him “for hours,” after the Turkish embassy canceled his passport, he said in a video that he posted to Twitter.
The NBA player is an outspoken critic of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He is also a supporter of Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based opponent of Erdoğan whom the president blames for the failed coup attempt that took place in Turkey in July.
“The reason behind it is just of course my political views,” Kanter says in the video, in which he continues his criticism of Erdogan.
“He’s a bad, bad man, he is a dictator and he is the Hitler of our century,” Kanter adds.
Thunder officials told ESPN that they are working with the NBA to get information about Kanter’s situation. Saturday is Kanter’s 25th birthday.
Erdoğan has cracked down on journalists, human rights activists and his political opponents particularly hard since the failed coup attempt. In April, he won a narrow referendum that further concentrated his power and threatened the country’s status as a democracy.
The Turkish president visited the United States and President Donald Trump last week. The visit had already drawn protests from Erdoğan’s critics before he appeared to watch members of his security force attacked and beat protesters outside the home of the Turkish ambassador in Washington, D.C.
Kanter’s opposition to Erdoğan ― and support of the Gulen movement ― caused him to cut ties with his family in August.
Kanter’s U.S.-based assistant, however, said his representatives are “pretty optimistic” that they will be able to secure his return to the United States, The Oklahoman’s Brett Dawson reported.