Turkish Muslim Leader On Trial
Mar. 09, 1998
AUGSBURG, Germany (AP) _ A Turkish clergyman went on trial Monday accused of issuing a death sentence against a compatriot as part of a power struggle within Germany's Muslim community.
Hasan Pala, imam of a mosque in the southern Bavarian town of Augsburg, is charged with urging the assassination of Halil Ibrahim Sofu during Friday prayers in July 1996.
Sofu was found fatally shot 10 months later; no suspects have been arrested.
Prosecutors said the killing was linked to strife within Germany's Association of Islamic Groups and Communities, which advocates the overthrow of Turkey's government and its replacement with strict Muslim rule.
Since the 1995 death of its founder, Cemaleddin Kaplan, the group has been involved in a bloody power struggle, authorities said.
Sofu had angered backers of the new leader, Metin Kaplan, by proclaiming himself the new ``caliph'' or top Muslim religious leader, prosecutors said.
Under tight security at the Augsburg district court Monday, two witnesses testified that Pala issued the death sentence twice at the Mevlana mosque in Augsburg.
Prosecutors have not yet cited the sentence they are seeking. The trial is expected to last at least three days.