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Germany bans extreme Islamic caliphate

Germany bans extreme Islamic caliphate

Publication: The Times of India - Internet Edition
Date: December 13, 2001

Berlin: The German government cracked down on Wednesday on an extreme Islamic organisation regarded as a "state within a state", banning the so-called caliphate and mounting raids on some 200 premises across the country.

Interior Minister Otto Schily announced that he had banned the Cologne-based association, a related foundation called "The Servants of Islam" and 19 member organisations.

The Hilafet Devleti association, or caliphate, headed by the jailed so-called Caliph of Cologne, the Turkish national Metin Kaplan, has a total of about 1,100 members in Germany, according to the ministry.

The ban was accompanied by police raids early Wednesday on 212 premises in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Berlin and Lower Saxony, the ministry said.

Hundreds of police officers descended on offices and a mosque associated with Kaplan in Cologne and the property of the caliphate was seized, police said. Some 30 people in the buildings were sent home after identity checks.

Raids took place in numerous other German towns too, and there were at least two arrests, at Wiesbaden, according to witnesses. Religious writings were also seized and in Ingolstadt a revolver was found, police said.

The homes of 64 leading members of the association were searched in the raids, the ministry said.

The aim of Kaplan's self-styled caliphate - the reference is to a traditional medieval Moslem state - is to overthrow the secular Turkish state and replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic state.

"The so-called caliphate incites its supporters against democracy, against those who think differently and against the Republic of Turkey. Particularly repulsive are its anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli tirades," Schily told a news conference in Berlin.

Kaplan, a Muslim theologian, was given a four-year jail sentence in November 2000 for inciting the murder of a rival Muslim leader, who was assassinated in Berlin by three masked men in May 1997.

Federal German investigators say that in 1996-97 Kaplan attempted to set up a joint caliphate with Osama bin Laden and the latter's Al-Qaeda organisation. Negotiations with the presumed mastermind behind the September 11 attacks in the United States apparently failed, however.

The caliphate is the first organisation to be affected by a change in German law on religious associations, brought in as part of a package of anti-terrorist security measures in the wake of September 11.

The law, which came into effect December 8, abolishes privileges enjoyed by religious organisations.

Kaplan's organisation had been under surveillance by the domestic German intelligence service since its foundation in 1984 because of its "aggressive, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic agitation".

According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the caliphate formed "a state within a state" in which only Koranic law was regarded as valid.

Turkey has been demanding Kaplan's extradition since his arrest in Cologne in March 1999, but Germany has so far refused on the basis that there is no guarantee he would not be executed.

Schily said on Wednesday that he would like to expel Kaplan but that the Turkish government would have to give a guarantee that it would not carry out a death sentence on him. The German government will hold talks with the authorities in Ankara about this, he said. (AFP)

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