Background Briefing


Metin Kaplan (Update)26

The government of Germany deported Metin Kaplan, a radical Muslim cleric, to Turkey in October 2004, based on diplomatic assurances.  In May 2003 a German court had halted Kaplan’s extradition based on human rights concerns, including the insufficiency of diplomatic assurances against torture and unfair trial from the Turkish authorities.  In response to the judgment, the German authorities sought enhanced assurances from the Turkish government. Kaplan lost a series of legal challenges to his subsequent deportation. The German government justified Kaplan’s removal by claiming that it had secured written assurances from the Turkish Foreign and Justice Ministries that Kaplan would get a fair trial upon return.

In June 2005 Kaplan was sentenced to life in prison in Turkey for plotting to overthrow Turkey’s secular system with his Cologne-based extremist group, the Union of Islamic Communities, also known as “Hilafet Devleti” (Caliphate State). A Turkish Appeals Court unanimously overturned that verdict in November 2005, finding the trial unfair due to procedural deficiencies and inadequate investigation.27  According to Kaplan’s lawyer, Husnu Tuna, the cleric was convicted on the basis of evidence from an earlier case in which there was forensic medical evidence indicating that many of the defendants were subjected to torture.28

Kaplan’s retrial commenced on April 28, 2006. According to Kaplan’s lawyer the Turkish court issued summonses for two witnesses to appear at the retrial, both of whom claimed they had been tortured into making incriminating testimonies at Kaplan’s original trial. The retrial, however, was then adjourned until July 26, 2006. Tuna’s request that Kaplan be freed from prison pending the outcome of the retrial was denied. At this writing, hearings in Kaplan’s retrial continue.

26 Human Rights Watch, “Empty Promises,” pp. 31-32. See also Human Rights Watch, Commentary on State Replies: CDDH Questionnaire on Diplomatic Assurances, pp. 4-5.

27 “Turkey Overturns Life Sentence against ‘Caliph of Cologne,’” Agence France-Presse, November 30, 2005. Fair trial concerns in Turkey are detailed in a recent 300-page report (in German) by Helmut Oberdiek for Amnesty International Germany, Pro Asyl, and Holtfort-Stiftung, Gutachterliche

Stellungnahme Rechtsstaatlichkeit politischer Verfahren in der Türkei (The Rule of Law and Political Trials in Turkey), February 23, 2006,  (accessed January 1, 2007) (the Kaplan case is described in detail on pp. 193-234). See also US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Report on Human Rights Practices – 2005: Turkey,” March 8, 2006, (accessed January 1, 2007).

28 Email communication from Husnu Tuna, Metin Kaplan’s lawyer, to Human Rights Watch, March 2, 2006.