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Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

Court rejects Erdogan injunction against media CEO

May 10, 2016

A German court has dismissed Turkish President Erdogan's legal action against the head of media giant Axel Springer. The request came after the CEO published an open letter in support of satirist Jan Böhmermann.


Cologne's regional court threw out Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's preliminary injunction application against Axel Springer's CEO, Mathias Döpfner, on Tuesday.

The court said its decision was based on the "constitutionally guaranteed right of the defendant to the freedom of expression."

The injunction was sought after Döpfner (pictured above) published an open letter in one of the media group's newspapers, in which he defended German TV satirist Jan Böhmermann - whose "Defamatory Poem" allegedly insulted Erdogan and sparked tensions between Ankara and Berlin.

"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 court in Cologne.

Satirist Jan Böhmermann, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Böhmermann's satirical poem sparked a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Turkey

Injunction over open letter

On Monday, Erdogan's lawyer sought a court order to stop Döpfner from repeating a derogatory term about the Turkish leader while supporting Böhmermann.

In the open letter, published in the Sunday edition of the German newspaper "Die Welt," Döpfner said he found Böhmermann's poem "priceless" and that it was "a work of art."

He said the poem was intended to "force people to consider how a society deals with satire and - even more important - satire intolerance among non-democrats."

In a postscript, he said he supported Böhmermann's "formulations and insults wholeheartedly" and wanted "to make them mine in every legal form."

A satirical and controversial poem

Erdogan's lawyer, Ralf Höcker, already said that in the event of a dismissal, he would advise the Turkish leader to appeal in the court of second instance.

"Mr. Erdogan is a human being and human dignity is inviolable," Höcker said in that statement, adding that this was placed above the freedom of press, art and opinion in the German Constitution.

Satire scandal

Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel granted a Turkish request for Böhmermann to be investigated for allegedly insulting a foreign head of state.

A section of Germany's criminal code makes it illegal to insult a foreign head of state - an offense which is punishable with up to five years in prison. The German government has since announced plans to repeal the law.

Böhmermann's recital of his "Defamatory Poem" on national television in late March contained a number of references to Erdogan having sex with goats and sheep.

During the broadcast, Böhmermann admitted that his poem flouted the legal limits to free speech in Germany.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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