German court bans sections of satirical poem about Erdoğan
HAMBURG – ReutersA Hamburg court issued a preliminary injunction on May 17 banning the re-publication of sections of a satirical poem by a German comedian about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying they amounted to abuse and libel.
Comedian Jan Böhmermann recited the poem on television in March, prompting the Turkish president to file a complaint with prosecutors that he had been insulted.
In a separate complaint, lawyers for Erdoğan also asked a court in Hamburg to ban re-publication of the poem.
In its injunction, which applies to the whole of Germany, the Hamburg court marked in red 18 of the poem’s 24 verses, which it said were “abusive and defaming.”
It said its decision, which may be appealed, was based on the need to find a balance between preserving the right to artistic freedom and the personal rights of Erdoğan.
“The poem’s reference to racist prejudice and religious slander as well as sexual habits the verses in question go beyond what the petitioner [Erdoğan] can be expected to tolerate,” the Hamburg court wrote.
The six verses the court did not ban include references to Turkey’s treatment of minorities.
Erdoğan, a crucial partner for Merkel in tackling Europe’s migrant crisis, had demanded Germany press charges against Böhmermann.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism for allowing prosecutors to pursue the case against Böhmermann.
Under Germany’s criminal code, insults against foreign leaders are not allowed but the government can decide whether to authorize prosecutors to go ahead.
The affair, which has turned into a diplomatic spat, has opened Merkel to accusations she has become too accommodating toward Erdoğan in pursuing a controversial European Union deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.
Merkel is widely seen as causing the problem in the first place in describing the poem to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as “deliberately insulting,” something she herself has said was “in retrospect a mistake.”
Prosecutors in the western German city of Mainz who are dealing with the Böhmermann case said it was unclear when a decision would be made on whether to go ahead with the case.