Merkel accepts request to prosecute comedian for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan
REUTERS photoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted a request from Turkey to seek the prosecution of a comedian who read out a crude poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on German television.
“The government will give its authorization in the case at hand,” Merkel told reporters on April 15, adding it was up to the courts to decide on the comedian’s guilt or innocence.
Under section 103 of Germany’s criminal code, the federal government has to authorize prosecutors to pursue a case against comedian Jan Böhmermann, who is accused of insulting a foreign leader.
However, Merkel also announced that Germany would by 2018 scrap the rarely-enforced section 103 of the criminal code on insulting organs or representatives of foreign states - under which Böhmermann has been accused - as a result of the embarrassing affair.
“There were different opinions between the coalition partners - the conservatives and the SPD [Social Democrats],” Merkel told reporters at the chancellery in Berlin.
“The outcome is that the German government will give the authorization in the current case,” she added, stressing that this was not a decision about the merits of the prosecution’s case against Böhmermann.
“In a state under the rule of law, it is not a matter for the government but rather for state prosecutors and courts to weigh personal rights issues and other concerns affecting press and artistic freedom,” she said.
Merkel stressed that Berlin’s decision did not amount to a “pre-judgement” on his legal culpability and that “prosecutors and courts” would have the last word.
Erdoğan had filed a legal complaint against Böhmermann, the host of the late-night “Neo Magazin Royale” show on public broadcaster ZDF in Germany, for reciting a crude satirical poem about him on television.
Prosecutors in Mainz said Erdoğan had filed a complaint against Böhmermann for insulting him. Under the criminal code, he could, if found guilty, be imprisoned for up to a year.
Erdoğan’s German lawyer, Michael-Hubertus von Sprenger, said he was prepared to go to the highest court and added that the Turkish president wanted Böhmermann to be punished.
“He definitely won’t get a heavy punishment, but rather it will be a punishment that is necessary to get him back on the right path - to produce satire, and not gross insults,” Sprenger told ZDF.
Merkel had told reporters on April 14 that her government was still examining Turkey’s request to prosecute the satirist, two days after underlining Germany’s constitution guaranteed “freedom of expression, academia and of course the arts.”
She had also said the case was entirely separate from other political issues, namely the EU-Turkey pact meant to end the mass influx of Syrian refugees and migrants from other countries to Europe, following widespread criticism that she was not holding up European values to avoid harming the deal.