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Kaplan Lawyers Turn to Schily for Help

In Istanbul, the trial of Metin Kaplan on charges of high treason could be over very soon. The case has sparked anger from his lawyers and human rights groups, who claim Kaplan has not had a fair trial.

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Is he getting a fair trial?

With a verdict expected in just under two weeks, Kaplan's lawyers want the German government to step in on behalf of their client.

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.

According to Kaplan's lawyers in Germany, this means the hearing is in breach of the rule of law -- and they want German Interior Minister Otto Schily, who insisted Kaplan receive a fair trial in Turkey, to intervene.

Schily's role

Otto Schily bei Abdulkadir Aksu in Ankara

Otto Schily, left, arrives with his Turkish counterpart, Abdulkadir Aksu, to speak to the media after their talks in Ankara in Sept. 2003. Turkey assured Schily that Kaplan, then wanted in Turkey for treason, would not be tortured or mistreated if handed over to Ankara.

Schily played a key role in Kaplan's extradition to Turkey in October 2004. He visited and wrote to Turkish officials many times to ensure Kaplan received proper treatment. Now Kaplan's German lawyer, Ingeborg Naumann, wants Schily to show the same dedication in getting Kaplan a fair hearing.

"I am asking him for diplomatic help," she said. "It doesn't matter what kind of crime Kaplan has or has not done. What matters is he gets a fair trial."

No response

Schily's intervention could be Kaplan’s last hope. The court is expected to rule on the May 30 -- one day before judicial reforms, which could help Kaplan, come into force. But despite her efforts, Ingeborg Naumann has still had no reply.

"There has been no reaction at all," she said. "I sent him a letter saying that the Turkish security forces were trying to get witnesses in an illegal way. But he said the trial is going in the right way."

It's not a view shared by Kaplan's lawyer in Turkey. Hüsnü Tuna claims the court has already decided Kaplan is guilty. "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 argued. "I have never seen such a short high treason trial," he said, referring to the fact the trial could be over after just three days.

Ingeborg Naumann feels a lot hinges on the accused getting fair treatment.

"If we get a fair trial and this court in Istanbul hears the witnesses directly in the court," she pointed out, "then maybe Kaplan gets a sentence of two years. Otherwise, it's a life sentence."

Terrorism charges

The prosecution is seeking life imprisonment for the man known as the "Caliph of Cologne," accusing him of trying to forcefully overthrow Turkey's secular political system.

Metin Kaplan in der Türkei

Kaplan, center, escorted by plainclothes Turkish policemen as he arrived at a prison in Istanbul in Oct. 2004.

Among the charges against Kaplan, leader of the extremist group "Hilafet Devleti" -- the Caliphate State, in Turkish -- is an alleged 1988 bid to use an explosives-laden plane to blow up the mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular Turkish republic.

Tuna said he would be appealing to the European Court for Human Rights to ensure the trial continues in accordance with the rule of law.

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