Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Kaplan Affair

Last weeks debacle in Germany concerned the failed Olympic bid of Leipzig because the city was too small. This weeks has greater gravitas. It involves the deportation of a radical Islamist cleric.

Metin Kaplan, an imam in Cologne, succeeded his father as the head of the group "Caliphate State" (Kalifatsstaat), which spread antisemitism and called for a coup d'etat against the secular regime in Turkey. They had come to Germany in 1983 as asylum seekers. The organization, founded by his father Cemaleddin (known as the Khomeini of Cologne), called for global domination under Islam under a Caliphate. (Conveniently, he called himself "the Caliph of Cologne"). He incited the assassination of a rival imam from Berlin, for which he served four years in prison. Turkey sought his extradition after 32 members of the Caliphate State planned to crash a plane into a monument to Ataturk (the secular founder of Turkey) in 1998.

In December 2001 the Caliphate State was banned (Vereinsverbot) by the federal republic as an "enemy to the democratic and constitutional state". In 2002 his asylum was rescinded, but his deportation to Turkey was blocked by the same court: it could not be guaranteed that Kaplan would be treated fairly in Turkey. Kaplan was under the surveillance of the police and the government, but he had freedom of movement throughout the city of Cologne.

This week a court in Muenster approved his deportation when sufficient guarantees were given by Turkey. Kaplan was asked to report to the authorities. But he disappeared. Germans were shocked that this fifty-one year old man could disappear so easily. With fingers pointing everywhere, the blame appears to be falling on the minister of the interior for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Fritz Behrens. Previously Behrens had promised the state parliament that Kaplan was no threat German security. Kaplan's disappearance has caused Germans to doubt their entire anti-terrorism apparatus.
The Social Democrat's parliamentarian from Cologne, Lale Akgün, agreed that the Kaplan case has undermined the authority of German officials. "Under such circumstances, people will find it difficult to believe that we're capable of passing good security laws," Akgün said.

Kaplan is now at his apartment, under surveillance, enjoying a few weeks before being deported.


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