An NBA player who has criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that his father "has been arrested" by the authoritarian leader.
"MY DAD HAS BEEN ARRESTED by Turkish government and the Hitler of our century," Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter tweeted Friday (original emphasis). "He is potentially to get tortured as thousand others."
Kanter is a prominent critic of Erdogan and supporter of Fetullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric that the Turkish government blames for a failed coup attempt last year. Erdogan has arrested hundreds of Gulen's supporters on charges of terrorism and recently canceled Kanter's passport while he was traveling in Romania in an attempt to have him deported to Turkey.
"It's crazy," Kanter told the Wall Street Journal. "The government is going after anyone who speaks up for democracy and against [Erdogan]."
The reported arrest of Kanter's father suggests Turkey is looking for additional ways to pressure expatriate critics of Erdogan's government. The elder Kanter publicly disowned his last August in a letter published throughout Turkey. "With a feeling of shame I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for having such a son," Mehmet Kanter wrote, per Reuters.
Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian tendencies have drawn sharp criticism from American leaders, particularly following an attack on protestors outside the Turkish embassy in Washington D.C. "This is the United States of America," Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain tweeted following the attack, which Erdogan watched in person. "We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior."
Turkey is a NATO ally, however, at a time when President Trump's national security team is trying to defeat the Islamic State in neighboring Syria and has to worry about the potential for Russian aggression in Europe. Trump's team has said that it can't always pursue human rights issues in the presence of other pressing national security interests.
"In some circumstances, we should and do condition our policy engagements on people adopting certain actions as to how they treat people," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told State Department staff in May. "We should demand that. But that doesn't mean that's the case in every situation."