German Court Forbids Bulk of Satirical Poem about Turkey’s President

German Court Forbids Bulk of Satirical Poem about Turkey’s President
Wed May 18, 2016 15:32:21

A court in Germany has banned a German comedian from re-publishing a section of a satirical poem that mocked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Jan Boehmermann read out the poem about Erdogan on public German television channel ZDF on March 31. Ankara demanded Germany prosecute Boehmermann for insulting the Turkish president as a foreign head of state.

In another complaint, Erdogan’s lawyers asked the court to ban the re-publication of the poem altogether.

The regional Hamburg court ruled on Tuesday that 18 of the 24 verses of the poem were “abusive and defaming.” The remaining six verses referred to Ankara’s treatment of minorities.

The court said the ruling was based on the need to create a balance between maintaining the right to artistic freedom and the personal rights of the Turkish president.

"Through the poem's reference to racist prejudice and religious slander as well as sexual habits the verses in question go beyond what the petitioner (President Erdogan) can be expected to tolerate," the court said.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shake hands during her visit to Ankara, on February 8, 2016

The ZDF apologized over the piece of satire, saying the show "had crossed the line into slander." A rerun of the program was pulled from air.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel authorized in April the prosecution of the comedian. Merkel had called the anti-Erdogan poem “deliberately insulting” during a telephone call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

She has come under pressure for bowing to Turkey’s demands at a time that Berlin has been relying on Ankara to implement the terms of a controversial deal on taking back refugees from the European shores.

She has also been criticized for ignoring human rights violations in Turkey and Ankara’s actions against journalists.

Under Germany’s law, foreign leaders should not be insulted but the government can decide whether to authorize prosecutors to go ahead.

The German chancellor, however, has said Berlin intends to scrap by 2018 the rarely enforced Section 103 of the criminal code, which criminalizes insulting a head of state, organs or representatives of foreign states. The charges can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Activists say Erdogan has filed hundreds of court cases against critics, including many journalists, for insulting him since he took office in August 2014.

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