ISTANBUL, Oct 13 (AFP) – Metin Kaplan, a Turkish Islamist activist known as the “Caliph of Cologne,” was indicted on sedition charges and jailed by an Istanbul criminal court Wednesday, the day after he lost a protracted legal battle against deportation from Germany.
The court charged Kaplan with “attempting to overthrow the secular order by use of arms” as part of multiple proceedings launched against him in absentia and set the trial for December 20.
The most spectacular charge against Kaplan, 51, alleges that he planned to attack the mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern and secular Turkey, with an explosives-laden plane during the republic’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1998.
He is also accused of sending a letter to Turkish members of parliament in 1997 proclaiming that he had set up an Islamic state in this country.
Kaplan, divested for the occasion of his customary turban and robes and wearing a business suit, with tieless shirt buttoned at the collar, refused to stand before the judge, prompting a warning that he could be found in contempt and barred from attending his own trial.
He denied any such intention, saying he was “unwell, tired and hungry” after 10 hours in detention at the Istanbul airport, where he arrived Tuesday night aboard a private flight laid on by the Rhineland-North Westphalia land that has been trying to get rid of him for years.
Kaplan refused to plead, saying he needed time to organize his defence with his lawyers.
His attorney, Husnu Tuna, said he had not worked out a line of defense yet, but rejected the charge of attempting to blow up Ataturk’s mausoleum as “a set-up.”
“I followed the start of that trial … the prosecutor himself didn’t believe that there was going to be a kamikaze attack with a diving plane,” he told reporters.
The German authorities had long sought to deport Kaplan but were prevented from doing so by the courts on grounds that he could face mistreatment in Turkey.
On Tuesday, the administrative court in Cologne ruled that despite an ongoing appeal against his expulsion, Kaplan could still be deported.
Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, quoted by the Anatolia news agency, sought to allay any fears about the treatment Kaplan will receive.
“Nobody should have any concerns,” Cicek told reporters here. “The trial will be a fair one. It will be in line with the rules of law.”
In March 2003, Kaplan ended a four-year jail term in Germany for inciting members of his group called Hilafet Devleti — Caliphate State, in Turkish — to murder a rival Islamist leader.
Germany banned the organization in 2001, using legislation passed after the September 11 attacks in the United States to crack down on Muslim extremists.
Kaplan took over the organisation upon the death of its founder, his father Cemalettin Kaplan.
Both men are known in Turkey as “The Black Voice” for their advocacy of a return to the caliphate and their hate campaigns against the Turkish and Israeli states and Jews in general.
The younger Kaplan, a father of three, had been living since 1983 in Germany where, for many years, he had enjoyed political refugee status.