German court rules against comedian whose poem insulted Erdogan

A German court has banned a prominent comedian from reciting "slanderous and defamatory" parts of a poem he wrote about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a case that was prompted by a Turkish request for an injunction.

The Hamburg court ruled Tuesday that the poem by Jan Boehmermann was satire, but that it contained sexual references about Erdogan that were "slanderous and defamatory."

Aired on March 31 by public broadcaster ZDF, the poem accuses Erdogan of watching child pornography and performing sex acts with animals, but also satirizes some of the president's authoritarian policies.

If Boehmermann fails to respect the injunction, he can be fined up to 250,000 euros (282,000 dollars) or jail time of up to six months, according to the ruling.

The court said its decision was based on balancing freedom of opinion and artistic expression on the one hand and the personal rights of the plaintiff on the other.

Boehmermann's lawyer Christian Schertz described the decision as "wrong," pointing to the fact that Boehmermann says in the broadcast that the poem includes material that violates German free speech laws, thereby disavowing the content.

"Therefore we will examine whether an appeal is possible and also consider whether [to push for] a decision from the Constitutional Court," he said Tuesday.

"The court has found that the statements in the poem are undeniably slanderous and defamatory and that it is not a question of taste," Erdogan's German lawyer, Michael von Sprenger, said Tuesday.

Separately, Chancellor Angela Merkel last month granted a request from Erdogan to criminally investigate Boehmermann under a little-used law against insulting foreign heads of state.

Prosecutors have not decided whether to file charges.

Both cases have prompted a debate in Germany about the limits of free speech and Merkel's relationship with Turkey as she seeks to enlist Ankara in her bid to end the refugee crisis that saw 1.1 million migrants enter Germany in 2015.

Last update: Wed, 18/05/2016 - 11:28
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