Enes Kanter: Boston Celtics' Turkish-born centre to play at Toronto Raptors on Christmas Day

Enes Kanter
Kanter did not travel to London for a game in January over fears for his safety

Boston Celtics' Turkish-born centre Enes Kanter will play against the Toronto Raptors in Canada on Christmas Day - his first match outside of the US for more than a year.

Kanter, 27, has been a critic of Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In January 2019, Turkish prosecutors issued an international warrant for his arrest and he told the BBC he was trapped in the US.

Before Wednesday's match he tweeted "I'm Free" alongside a Canadian flag.

Writing in Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper,external-link Kanter said: "I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, US and Canadian law enforcement, US Senator Ed Markey, the Celtics, the NBA and my managers for working diligently to make my Christmas game against the Raptors possible and ensuring my safety there.

"And, on Christmas day, I will play in my first game as a Celtic outside the US when I take the court against the Raptors."

Kanter has not played outside of the US for any team since November 2018.

Why the New York Knicks were without Enes Kanter for their London NBA game

While playing for the New York Knicks in January, Kanter did not travel to London to play the Washington Wizards over fears for his safety and he also missed a game in March against Toronto as a member of the Portland Trailblazers.

Kanter's Turkish passport was cancelled in 2017, which he said was because of his political views. He holds a US green card.

He is accused of having links with armed groups said to be behind the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the US, is alleged to have masterminded the coup, and Kanter said he was with the Islamic cleric on the night of the coup.

Kanter moved to the US in 2009 and was drafted into the NBA by the Utah Jazz in 2011, before joining the Knicks in 2017. He move to Portland in February and then the Celtics in July.

"For me, there is nothing I would rather do than play basketball," Kanter added in his editorial in the newspaper.

"But I haven't been able to go to cities outside the United States. I've had to leave my team behind, which is hard for someone like me, who values camaraderie and team solidarity as much as I do. The reason: I speak out against the Turkish state."

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