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Böhmermann threatens to take Merkel to court

September 6, 2017

German satirist Jan Böhmermann has threatened legal action against Merkel if she doesn't take back her statement on Böhmermann's poem about Turkish President Erdogan. Merkel had called it "purposefully offensive."

Jan Böhmermann
Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Over a year after the so-called "Böhmermann Affair" launched a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Turkey, the German comedian is still looking for justice over the German government's response – this time from the chancellor herself.

A satirical and controversial poem

According to a report by the Berlin newspaper Der Taggesspiegel on Tuesday, Böhmermann threatened German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a lawsuit if she doesn't rescind her statement about his "Schmähgedicht" – or "defamatory poem" – about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Read more: Böhmermann: How a German satirist sparked a freedom-of-speech debate

At the time, Merkel made a public statement calling the poem "purposefully offensive." Shortly afterwards, the German government authorized prosecutors to review the poem in court, as requested by Turkey.

In a letter to the chancellery, Böhmermann's lawyer Christian Schertz said Merkel "made a legal assessment of my client's work, which is equivalent to a pre-trial."

In the document, which was shown to the paper, Schertz argued that Merkel's statement was likely unlawful, as there were preliminary proceedings running at the time against Böhmermann. He said her statement "triggered considerable consequences."

Schertz has given Merkel a week to take back her criticism; otherwise, he will advise Böhmermann to take the case to court.

Merkel allegedly only watched tabloid video

Schulz also wrote that Merkel made her statement "without knowing all the facts." According to Der Tagesspiegel's own court case against the chancellery, Merkel came to know about the poem by watching a version of it on the website of the German tabloid Bild.

At the time, only a short, out-of-context video of Böhmermann's reading of the poem was available, the paper alleges.

Read more: German comedian Jan Böhmermann celebrates debut on US late night TV

In March 2016, Böhmermann had read out a poem on his weekly satirical show on public broadcaster ZDF. It included claims that Erdogan watched child pornography and had sex with animals.

However, Böhmermann made clear that the poem's intention was to show the difference between legitimate criticism and genuine insults. He also said it was a satirical response to the thousands of "lese majeste" cases the Turkish president was pursuing in Turkey and abroad.

After the satirist read the poem, Erdogan asked the German government to authorize an investigation, which Merkel later approved despite considerable criticism.

Prosecutors then dropped the case last November, but a court still banned portions of the "defamatory poem" from being published or broadcast.

In June of this year, Germany's parliament voted to scrap the "lese majeste" law – also known as Paragraph 103 of Germany's criminal code. The law protected foreign heads of state and governments from insults.

rs/bw (dpa, epd)