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Germany

Court Approves Deportation of "Caliph of Cologne"

A German court Wednesday ruled Metin Kaplan, the leader of an Islamic fundamentalist group, could be deported to his native Turkey. But lawyers for the so-called "Caliph of Cologne" said they will appeal the decision.

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Kaplan wants an Islamic regime in Turkey.

The higher regional court in Münster overturned an earlier ruling that Kaplan would not get a fair trial if extradited to Turkey, where he faces charges of high treason.

But Judge Max Seibert said Kaplan did not face "with reasonable probability torture or humiliating treatment" if sent to Turkey.

Kaplan's attorneys introduced several new motions to hinder the deportation on Wednesday. But his application for asylum was rejected in August 2003 and his presence in Germany is only tolerated due to a court decision last autumn delaying his deportation.

In Cologne, Kaplan led the now banned Islamic fundamentalist group "Caliphate State" which was suspected of spreading anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda within Germany's Islamic community as well as calling for the toppling of the Turkish government. He also served four years in a German prison for inciting the murder of a rival who was killed by unknown assailants in 1999.

Along with four motions to enter new evidence, defense lawyer Ingeborg Naumann presented two statements from doctors saying Kaplan had prostate cancer and that he was unfit to travel. They expressed concern he would not receive proper medical care in Turkey.

"He is apparently not doing very well," Naumann told journalists.

She also entered a motion against a potential speedy deportation after reports surfaced the authorities were planning to expedite his departure in case of a positive verdict.

But a spokesman for the North-Rhine Westphalia Interior Ministry denied Kaplan would be put on a plane any time soon. "There will be no cloak-and-dagger operation," he told the Reuters news agency.

Talks with Turkey

German Interior Minister Otto Schily met with his Turkish counterpart last year to get assurances from Ankara that Kaplan would receive a fair and open trial should he be deported. A Düsseldorf court had prevented the deportation of the self-proclaimed "Caliph of Cologne" because it said Turkish authorities could not guarantee testimony free from the influence of torture.

Six years ago, the Turkish police arrested 32 Kaplan followers for planning to crash a small airplane filled with explosives in the mausoleum of the founder of secular Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Instead of having due process they were then allegedly tortured in police custody for days.

The German government would like to be able to deport Kaplan and other foreigners like him as quickly as possible. On Tuesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed to secure a deal with the opposition conservatives on new immigration laws, which would potentially ease the extradition of religious fundamentalists like Kaplan.

The existing grounds for deportation were formulated generally to apply to people who publicly incite others to violence. In the new law, there could be special formulations which would make it possible to deport those who, for example, incite others to hatred.

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