German police search formissing radical Islamist

27th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

27 May 2004 , COLOGNE - Cologne police were searching Thursday for radical Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan who went missing in the wake of a state administrative court ruling permitting his expulsion to Turkey.

27 May 2004

COLOGNE - Cologne police were searching Thursday for radical Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan who went missing in the wake of a state administrative court ruling permitting his expulsion to Turkey.

Facing mounting criticism, police on Thursday denied responsibility for losing track of self-proclaimed "Caliph of Cologne but admitted he could have escaped by car.

At a press conference to discuss the embarrassing and politically- charged incident in which police were unable to locate Kaplan on Wednesday in order to arrest him, chief of police Klaus Steffenhagen said the police on their own initiative had placed Kaplan's apartment under surveillance Wednesday morning.

Earlier a Cologne police spokesman said Kaplan, who had been under virtual house arrest, had "apparently vanished in space",

Kaplan had not been seen leaving or entering the house since then, Steffenhagen said. But he conceded that police did not check cars leaving the building's underground garage.

Steffenhagen said the police did not have the legal authority to check cars leaving the garage.

"We as the Cologne police did what was legally possible," he said. "Therefore we have nothing to reproach ourselves for."

The search for Kaplan was now going on throughout Europe and was running in "high gear", the Cologne police chief said.

But until a Cologne court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday evening, the police had no legal basis for entering Kaplan's apartment, Steffenhagen said.

He declined to comment on whether other authorities, such as the German federal police, may have been keeping Kaplan under surveillance.

His comments came as the political shock waves of Kaplan's disappearance continued in Germany.

Cologne police had been sent to arrest Kaplan, the self-proclaimed "Caliph of Cologne" on Wednesday evening following a state administrative court ruling in Muenster which would permit his expulsion to Turkey.

When they arrived at his home, Kaplan was missing. A major search operation involving around 100 policemen was launched and still underway on Thursday.

Guether Beckstein, interior minister for the southern state of Bavaria, sharply criticised the Cologne authorities. On a German television programme Thursday morning, he said he had assumed that Kaplan was being kept under observation.

"But this has not been the case, or it has not been successful," said Beckstein. The next interior ministers conference of the German states would "be discussing this".

Kaplan faces treason charges in Turkey. He has been fighting against his deportation, arguing that he would not receive a fair trial there. His defence counsel also claimed in court that he is suffering from cancer and is unfit to travel.

Kaplan, has served four years prison in Germany for incitement to murder. After his jail term, German authorities began proceedings to deport him to Turkey.

Kaplan came to Germany in 1982 as an asylum-seeker. In 1995 he assumed the leadership of the "Caliphate State" group - now banned by the authorities - from his father. In an ensuing power struggle with a rival, Ibrahim Sofu, Kaplan had urged his followers to kill Sofu. Sofu was murdered by unknown assailants in Berlin in 1997.

DPA

Subject: German News

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