A radical Islamic cleric accused of plotting to install an Islamic state in his native Turkey has faced his first day on trial. Metin Kaplan denied terrorism charges, which include allegedly planning to fly a plane full of explosives into a memorial dedicated to modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk. He used the hearing to tell judges that he rejects terrorism as un-Islamic.
Kaplan argued that it was impossible to separate Islam from politics, and described radicals mounting attacks in Iraq as “defenders of human rights.” Kaplan, whose hearing has now been adjourned until April, inspires fierce loyalty from his followers. In October he was extradited from Germany, where he had lived for 20 years, and is now being held at a Turkish prison where his lawyer says he is being treated for prostate cancer. His campaign against Ataturk’s secular legacy in Turkey even inspired him to organise his symbolic killing at one of his rallies.