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"Hate Preacher" Sentenced to Life

A Turkish court found Islamic extremist Metin Kaplan guilty of high treason Monday and sentenced him to life in prison in a case that has drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

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Islamic militant Metin Kaplan sentenced to life

A Turkish court convicted a man known as the "Caliph of Cologne" of high treason for trying to forcefully overthrow Turkey's secular political system from Germany. The court sentenced him to life in prison.

The trial examined whether Kaplan, leader of the extremist group "Hilafet Devleti" -- Turkish for "Caliphate State" -- gave the order for a 1998 terrorist attack that used an explosives-laden plane to try to blow up the mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular Turkish republic.

Kaplan came to Germany in 1983 as a refugee. In May 2004, he lost his refugee status and after much legal wrangling, was extradited to Turkey in October last year.

Not fair trial, some say

During the court proceedings, lawyers and human rights groups complained that Kaplan was not getting a fair trial.

Central to the criticism of the trial are claims that in 1998, statements from five witnesses pertaining to a planned terrorist attack, allegedly masterminded by Kaplan, were given under torture from the police, resulting in convictions.

Metin Kaplan in der Türkei

Difficult for Germany

According to Kaplan's lawyers in Germany, this means the hearing is in breach of the rule of law.

Kaplan lawyer Hüsnü Tuna believed that the court decided Kaplan's guilt before the trial was even finished.

"The court's decision to accept as evidence statements given under torture goes to show that the court has already made up its mind," he said before the trial was finished. "I have never seen such a short high treason trial."

Thorn in the side of the German justice system

During his 20 years of asylum in Germany, Kaplan and his father, Cameleddin Kaplan, had been under the watchful eye of the German police. Metin Kaplan took over the leadership of the "caliphate," from his father in 1995, who was nicknamed the "Khomeini of Cologne."

Later his rival for leadership, Ibrahim Sofu, was shot dead in Berlin in 1997 as he lay in bed between his wife and newborn baby. Metin Kaplan then served time in prison in Germany from 1999 to 2003 for inciting his followers to murder the rival.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily banned the caliphate using legislation passed to crack down on Islamic extremists.

Schily and the city of Cologne sought to extradite Kaplan for more than a year following his release from jail in March 2003, but were foiled by court rulings that the defendant could face mistreatment if sent to Turkey. When they finally succeeded in October, Schily said Kaplan's deportation was a "symbol for a democracy able to defend itself."

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