German satirist Jan Böhmermann sues Angela Merkel over Erdogan poem remark | News | DW | 02.04.2019
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German satirist Jan Böhmermann sues Angela Merkel over Erdogan poem remark

Jan Böhmermann is taking Merkel to court over her response to his 2016 poem about the Turkish president. At the time, Merkel described the poem as "purposefully offensive," though she later said that was a mistake.

German comedian Jan Böhmermann is seeking an injunction against German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her comments about his controversial poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Berlin court confirmed on Tuesday.

Böhmermann's "Schmähgedicht" — or "defamatory poem" — sparked a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Turkey in 2016 and led to an investigation against the German comedian.

Details of the case:

A spokesperson with Berlin's Administrative Court told news agency DPA that Böhmermann's suit against Merkel includes two parts:

  • First, he wants the court to bar her from publicly repeating that his poem was "purposefully offensive."
  • If the court rejects that motion, Böhmermann has asked the court to formally state that Merkel's assessment of his poem was unlawful.
  • The Berlin court will hear the case on April 16 and is also due to deliver a verdict then as well.
  • Merkel will not personally appear in court, but will be represented by her lawyer.

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

What was the Böhmermann affair?

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

However, Böhmermann prefaced the poem by saying it was intended to show the difference between legitimate criticism and genuine insults. He also said he wanted to criticize Germany's antiquated "lese majeste" law — which criminalized insults against foreign heads of state — and point out Erdogan's numerous "lese majeste" lawsuits in other countries.

Erdogan then asked the German government to launch a probe against Böhmermann over the poem. The investigation was later dropped, although portions of the poem are still banned. Germany's parliament ended up scrapping the "lese majeste" law in 2017.

What did Merkel say?

At the time, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that the chancellor believed the poem to be "purposefully offensive."

Shortly afterwards, the German government authorized prosecutors to review the poem in court, as requested by Turkey. Böhmermann's lawyer argued that this amounted to a pre-trial and had considerable consequences for his client.

The chancellor later said that her remark on the poem was a mistake.

Watch video 04:57

A satirical and controversial poem (28.04.2016)

rs/jil (dpa, AFP)

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