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Germany Bans Islamic Extremist Group - 2001-12-12


Germany has banned an Islamic extremist group and said it could deport the head of the organization to Turkey.

Germany's interior minister, Otto Schily, announced the ban on the extremist group, Caliphate State. The group is based in Cologne and headed by Muslim cleric Metin Kaplan, known as the Caliph of Cologne. In a related move, Germany also banned a network of 19 organizations attached to a foundation linked with the cleric, the Servants of Islam.

Immediately after the ban, police raided premises throughout Germany believed to have ties with the extremist group. In Cologne, the city where the Islamic cleric has his headquarters, hundreds of police moved in on several offices and a mosque, and there were at least two arrests in the city of Wiesbaden.

Metin Kaplan is well known to German authorities. He is serving a four-year jail sentence for inciting the murder of a rival Muslim leader in Berlin. He claims to head a self-proclaimed Muslim caliphate, or state, whose goal is to overthrow Turkey's secular government and replace it with an Islamic one.

Germany enacted a law last week abolishing many privileges granted to religious organizations. Before the law was passed, religious groups operated with relatively little oversight by the state. But the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington prompted the German legislature to adopt the new legislation.

Interior Minister Otto Schily also says the city of Cologne has given the go ahead to deport Kaplan to Turkey immediately, which it has the right to do under Germany's decentralized federal system.

But the Cologne move is more a signal than a practical possibility.

The city cannot go through with the deportation, without a legally binding assurance from the government of Turkey that Kaplan will not be executed or tortured. Previously, Germany refused Turkish demands for the cleric's extradition precisely on the ground that there is no guarantee he will not be executed.

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