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Jan Böhmermann returns to the set

Chase WinterMay 13, 2016

German comedian Jan Böhmermann has returned to television after a pause following a row over a poem insulting Turkey's president. The German parliament is debating the law that has the satirist under investigation.

Pictureteaser Böhmermann Erdogan

The German comedian at the center of a free-speech row over a crude poem about Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to television late Thursday after a pause of several weeks. He said he would no longer make jokes about Adolf Hitler because it could be construed as disturbing the dead.

Jan Böhmermann, the front man of the comedy show "Neo Magazin Royale," is under investigation for reading a poem on television in late March accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of bestiality and pedophilia.

The case has turned into a domestic and diplomatic headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who controversially gave the green light to prosecutors to investigate the comedian after Erdogan's lawyers filed a complaint under an archaic German law proscribing defamation of foreign leaders.

Even before reading the poem, Böhmermann admitted it tested the limits of freedom of speech. The poem was a sharp piece of satire aimed at a Turkish leader who has clamped down on all types of dissent and filed nearly 2,000 defamation complaints against critics in Turkey.

A satirical and controversial poem

The Böhmermann case has been carried to the German parliament, which on Thursday debated the defamation law - article 103 of the penal code.

That debate stirred further controversy when a member of parliament from Merkel's Christian Democrats, the jurist Detlef Seif, read the poem out loud in parliament. He recited it not in a show of support, but rather to criticize the crude satire.

"A person's honor is under attack here and the justice must decide if these statements are still covered by freedom of expression and the press," Seif told parliament. "But put yourselves in the shoes of Erdogan and think about it, how would you take it?"

"I ask that the parliamentary immunity of CDU MP Detlef Seif be lifted for prosecution under article 103 of the penal code," Böhmermann responded on Twitter.

The recital drew criticism from some members of the governing coalition and opposition Greens and Left Party, who had tabled a motion to immediately lift article 103 from the penal code. Merkel has said she wants to overturn the law, but not until 2018. Justice Minister Heiko Maas, meanwhile, has made clear he would like to expedite striking the law from the books.

Ironically, Seif's recital will now remain accessible to the public on the German parliament's media library. Public broadcaster ZDF, which airs Böhmermanns' show, had previously scrubbed all footage of the poem from the internet based on what the broadcaster said were its "quality guidelines."

cw/jm (AFP, dpa)