German comedian placed under protection after Turkish president opens lawsuit over poem
BERLINAn official from the Cologne Police Department said police protection has been provided for German comedian Jan Böhmermann, against whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint, German daily Bild has reported.
Ralf Remmert, an official from the Cologne Police Department’s media bureau, told Bild that Böhmermann was under close police protection, while other measures have also been taken to guard him from any threats.
The newspaper alleged the protection was provided due to the “political” dimension of the case.
Erdoğan has filed a legal complaint against the host of late-night “Neo Magazin Royale” show on public broadcaster ZDF, Böhmermann, who recited a sexually 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 German broadcaster ZDF.
Böhmermann has also cancelled the next “Neo Magazin Royale” episode.
Prosecutors are conducting a parallel investigation into the comedian on suspicion of the more serious crime of “offending foreign states’ organs and representatives” after Turkey made a formal request. If found guilty of this charge, Böhmermann could face up to three years in prison.
In the second potentially more serious case, the German government has to authorize prosecutors to go ahead. Berlin will decide on the request from Turkey in the coming days, German Chancelloor Merkel said, adding that she cherished artistic freedom in Germany.
“Turkey is bearing a very big burden in relation to the Syrian civil war but all of that is completely separate from Germany’s fundamental values ... freedom of the press, opinion and science apply and are completely separate from that,” she told reporters.