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ZDF: Böhmermann poem 'legally permissible'

April 14, 2016

German comedian Jan Böhmermann has not signed a "cease and desist" letter, increasing the likelihood that the case may be taken to court. German broadcaster ZDF has defended his controversial poem to prosecutors.

German comedy show host Jan Böhmermann on the set of his ZDF show "NEO Magazin"
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Galuschka

Satire show host Jan Böhmermann is letting the clock run out on signing a declaration of discontinuance, the German lawyer of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed.

Erdogan's council, Michael-Hubertus von Sprenger, told news agency AFP that he is now preparing to file an injunction against the German comedian within the month.

When asked by news agency AFP whether or not the matter will, in the end, be settled in court, von Springer replied: "Yes, I assume."

Two weeks ago, Böhmermann read out a so-called "Defamatory Poem" about Erdogan on his show "Neo Magazine Royale" where he purposefully used insulting language. The declaration of discontinuance called for the 35-year-old comedian to never repeat the poem or start circulating it again.

In a letter rejecting the terms of the cease and desist order, Böhmermann's lawyer, Christian Schertz, wrote that that the context of the poem "has been obviously overlooked," quoted the German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung."

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The satirical poem was not broadcast or circulated as a singular item, explained Schertz, "but rather as part of an overall view on what is allowed in Germany and what is not."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday the German government is still reviewing Turkey's formal request to prosecute Böhmermann for insulting a foreign head of state.

ZDF lends support to Satirist

German public broadcaster ZDF, which airs Böhmermann's show, released a statement to the prosecutor's office in Mainz on Thursday, which defended Böhmermann's poem as "legal."

The broadcaster consulted the law firm Redeker Sellner Dahs, which found that "the disputed sequence including the so-called "Defamatory Poem" was permitted by law," the statement read. "Therefore, criminal boundaries were not crossed."

They said the constitutionally secured "freedom of satire" entails the use of "gross stylistic devices, regardless of whether they meet personal or general taste levels."

In their statement to the prosecutor, ZDF also said its initial decision to remove the Böhmermann clip was based on the broadcaster's quality guidelines and had nothing to do with the legality of the segment.

However, there are editors at ZDF that want to resurrect the libelous poem clip and repost it online, according to a letter circulated by the editorial department, confirmed a ZDF spokesman on Thursday.

In the letter, they state "We would like to see the 'Defamatory Poem' returned to the media library from the poison cabinet- as an article of contemporary history."

The ZDF spokesman said that despite the letter, the video will not be reposted online.

The Böhmermann case has sparked controversy not only in Germany and Turkey, but also worldwide. US newspaper "The Washington Post" lambasted Merkel's approach to Erdogan's request to prosecute saying: "Alarmingly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at least pretending to take it seriously."

A recent poll of more than 61,000 German readers of Focus Online magazine showed 82 percent of those polled viewed the poem as defensible and some 78 percent thought the German government should defend Böhmermann.

The Böhmermann case has unleashed a diplomatic crisis for Merkel, who has had to defend freedom of speech in Germany as well as downplaying Ankara's political influence as the two countries work together to implement a controversial EU-Turkey refugee deal.

rs/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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