German court rejects Erdoğan’s challenge against Springer boss

German court rejects Erdoğan’s challenge against Springer boss

German court rejects Erdoğan’s challenge against Springer boss

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A German court has thrown out a bid by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for an interim injunction against Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner in order to prevent him from repeating a poem by German comedian Jan Böhmermann, after the CEO penned an open letter expressing support for the satirist, Deutsche Press-Agentur has reported. 

The court on May 10 dismissed Erdoğan’s application on the basis of the “constitutionally guaranteed right of the defendant to the freedom of expression.”    

“When a potential conflict arises between the fundamental right to the freedom of expression and the personal rights of the plaintiff, it is admissible for Döpfner to publicly express an opinion in this controversial debate,” said Christina Harpering, spokeswoman for the Cologne court.

Döpfner, the CEO of one of Europe’s largest digital publishing houses, which owns Bild and Die Welt, among others, recently penned an open letter for German daily Welt am Sonntag expressing full support for Böhmermann. In his letter, Döpfner said the poem was “successful” and made him laugh. He also volunteered to have all the statements in the poem, including the “insults,” legally attributed to him as well. 

Erdoğan’s attorney, Ralf Höckner, said on May 9 that they had appealed for an interim injunction decision against Döpfner following his “open support” for the poem, adding that they would appeal to a higher court in the event that the court in Cologne declined to issue the injunction. 

The local court was not inclined to issue the injunction, Höckner admitted, but reminded reporters of the case against German director Uwe Boll, who was granted an injunction after producing a video inspired by Böhmermann’s poem. 

Erdoğan’s lawyer also likened the poem and the messages of support to a “gang rape.” 

“Mr. Erdoğan is also a person and human dignity is untouchable,” Höckner said, arguing that “dignity ranks higher than freedom of the press, expression or arts.” 

The row spilled over into diplomatic relations between Germany and Turkey shortly after the two countries reached an agreement in March to send migrants traveling illegally from Turkey to Greece back to Turkey, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen zone and some 6 billion euros in refugee support. 

Erdoğan’s request to press criminal charges against Böhmermann was controversially granted by Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 15, under a rarely enforced section of the criminal code on insulting representatives of foreign states.