'Caliph of Cologne' ducks life sentence in Turkey retrial

2nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Turkish court Friday sentenced an Islamist extremist known as "The Caliph of Cologne" to 17-and-a-half years in jail in a second retrial for undermining the secular system, Anatolia news agency said.

Metin Kaplan, 58, was twice sentenced to life -- in 2005 and 2008 -- but the appeals court overturned the rulings.

Kaplan -- head of the Union of Islamic Communities, also known as "Hilafet Devleti" (Caliphate State) -- was put on trial following his expulsion from Germany in 2004 over his role as the leader of the group which aspires to set up a state in Turkey based on Islamic rules.

The court ruled Friday that the group obtained arms and planned violence to undermine the secular system, but did not take action to realise them.

It said the defendant's activities amounted to "setting up and leading an armed terrorist organisation."

Kaplan's earlier life sentences were handed down on charges of "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through the use of arms."

Among the charges levelled against him was an alleged 1998 plan to use an explosives-laden plane to blow up the mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's secularist founder.

Kaplan settled in Germany in 1983, where he was granted political asylum.

He took over the leadership of Hilafet Devleti after the death in 1995 of his father, Cemaleddin Kaplan, a preacher known in Turkey as "The Voice of Darkness" for his ultra-radical Islamist views.

In Germany, Metin Kaplan and his family lived on welfare payments despite official estimates that his organisation had earned millions of dollars from donations and property deals.

He served four years in jail there for having ordered the killing of a rival during the struggle for his father's succession.

His organization was banned in Germany in 2001.

© 2010 AFP

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