Comic cleared in Erdogan spat
Comedian Jan Boehmermann. Source: Wikimedia
Prosecutors in Germany have scrapped a case against comedian Jan Boehmermann for insulting Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, because the satire was so exaggerated it could not be taken seriously.
“The results of the investigation show that criminal acts could not be proven,” prosecutors said, in reference to Boehmermann’s “Defamatory Poem” which unleashed a war of words between Berlin and Ankara.
In March, a broadcast by Boehmermann on public television recited the poem accusing the president of being “stupid, cowardly and uptight” and indulging in bestiality and paedophilia and admitted that it flouted the German legal limits on free speech, intended to test his nation’s levels of tolerance.
Introducing it on television, the comedian said he was conducting an experiment to illustrate the boundary between legitimate criticism and illegal abusive criticism or Schmähkritik under Germany’s law.
Boehmermann found Turkey’s levels of tolerance were limited.
He was reacting to Turkey’s decision to summon the German ambassador in protest at another satirical song broadcast on German television which ridiculed Erdogan in more polite language.
Erdogan did not see the funny side and filed a criminal complaint.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in April authorised a criminal investigation into whether Boehmermann could be prosecuted under Germany’s archaic lese majeste legislation, angering German rights groups.
ZDF television withdrew the show from its archives but argued that it did not break the law, while a Hamburg court temporarily banned the “abusive” content from being repeated.
But the poem was read out in full by an MP during a parliamentary debate in Berlin and politicians around the world supported the comedian.
Among them was Boris Johnson, now Britain’s foreign minister, who wrote a feeble limerick calling Erdogan a “wankerer”, whatever that means.
Prosecutors in the city of Mainz announced that the “piece was part of a well-known satirical television broadcast, and that an average TV audience should therefore assume that statements made there are often accompanied by exaggerations which often lack seriousness”.
Boehmermann described the show as a “nonsense programme”, prosecutors said.
“In view of the exaggerations…there is no evidence that the accused was making a serious attack on the personal or social reputation of the Turkish president,” they said.
The controversial poem came at a bad time for Merkel as she was leading talks with Turkey about preventing the flow of asylum seekers to Europe. Allowing prosecutors to investigate the case allowed Turkey’s rage to dissipate, while preserving her migrant deal.
Merkel has announced that the government would scrap the controversial lese majeste law by 2018.