Germany to scrap 'lese majeste' law after Turkey row
BERLIN - Agence France-PresseThe German government voted on Jan. 25 to scrap a "lese majeste" law that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had sought to employ against a popular German television satirist.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet decided to abolish by Jan. 1, 2018 the rarely enforced section of the criminal code that prohibits insulting organs or representatives of foreign states.
"The idea of 'lese majeste' dates back to a long-gone era, it no longer belongs in our criminal law," said Justice Minister Heiko Maas, adding that the regulation “is obsolete and unnecessary.”
Maas said heads of state and government would still be able to defend themselves against slander and defamation "but no more or less so than any other person."
President Erdoğan had launched a criminal complaint under the law, which carries up to three years' jail, against German TV comic Jan Boehmermann, who had insulted him in a "defamatory poem.” Merkel authorised criminal proceedings against Boehmermann, in a decision that appalled rights groups.
At the same time she said the article should be removed from Germany’s legal code, a move that still requires parliamentary approval.
Prosecutors had launched an investigation against Boehmermann but dropped the case last October.
The dispute had an impact on Berlin-Ankara relations at a time when Turkey was vital to European Union plans to stop the mass flow of migrants from the Middle East and Africa into the bloc.