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German Press Review: The Search for Kaplan

German editorials on Friday commented on the disappearance of Islamic extremist Metin Kaplan after a court ruled he could be extradicted to Turkey.

A Europe-wide search was launched on Thursday, then called off just hours later, amid confusion over the details of Wednesday’s court rulings on the deportation. Kaplan, who is wanted in Turkey on charges of planning to carry out a major terrorist attack in 1998, has been granted a stay of two months to appeal. The arrest fiasco was the main subject for comment in the German papers, which almost without exception accuse the authorities of incompetence.

How embarrassing, wrote the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: The explanations offered only show how miserably the security agencies co-operate. Police and domestic intelligence acted like an amateur theatre group against an allegedly highly dangerous extremist, the paper concluded.

A state ruled by law makes a mockery of itself if, as in the Kaplan case, it fails as soon as it has to carry out judgements, wrote the Badische Neueste Nachrichten of Karlsruhe.

Bonn’s General-Anzeiger asked why Kaplan wasn’t shadowed, observed and guarded on the day of days, when an appeals court was to decide his future. Why wasn’t there a police car at his front door, the paper wondered: How could this man, whose fundamentalist Islamic organisation is banned, simply disappear?

The Kölnische Rundschau noted that for days it was common knowledge that the man who called openly for murder and holy war against “infidels” was to be expelled, so why wasn’t the strictest possible watch put on his Cologne flat? Police didn’t even check cars coming out of the high-rise building, it noted.

The Abendzeitung of Munich said that people are asking themselves how security agencies are going to protect everyone from unrecognized or sleeping terrorists if they can’t even get hold of an Islamist under orders to report to the police regularly.

The Kieler Nachrichten thought: Cynics might say the main thing is that he’s gone. But that doesn’t make the mess-up more bearable.

You might almost be tempted to think that those who want more stringent laws staged the Kaplan case to underline the necessity for them, wrote the Mindener Tageblatt.

In Berlin, Der Tagesspiegel found that probably one has to be grateful to the “Caliph of Cologne” for provoking the question what use all the talk about biometric data in passports and other models is if the state can’t even use the instruments it’s got properly. Perhaps the Kaplan case has happened just in time for the republic that has been spared Islamic attacks so far to arm itself more strongly at last, the paper concluded.

Cologne’s Express argued that it’s too pat to call for the heads of the Cologne police chief and the state home affairs minister. It looks as if the behaviour of the Cologne police was legally beyond reproach, said the paper, and the politicians who want them to act differently have to provide other legal means of intervening.

This has got nothing to do with weak laws or agency powers, commented the business daily Handelsblatt, but a lot to do with dilettantism, sloppiness and squabbles over the respective responsibilities of federal and state authorities.

The Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung related the case to immigration and argued that Metin Kaplan’s escape shows yet again how urgently Germany needs a functioning immigration law. If the compromise just reached between the government and the opposition were law, said the paper, the self-styled Caliph of Cologne could not simply have disappeared. As a dangerous foreigner he would have been under strict guard after the first court sentence against him. He’d have had taken off him the means of communication that probably now helped him prepare his escape, the daily concluded.