Thursday, April 21, 2016

Turkey Files a Criminal Complaint Against a German Comedian

From Der Spiegel.

German television comedian Jan Böhmermann could face criminal proceedings for insulting Turkey's prime minister.
Turkey is calling for criminal proceedings against a German comedian who crudely disparaged its president on public television.

Personally ordered by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the complaint threatens to create a massive political crisis for Chancellor Merkel.

Would Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan really go so far as to personally go after a German television comedian over a poem he wrote? The answer came on Monday evening with confirmation from the public prosecutor in Mainz that a complaint had been submitted against Jan Böhmermann, a well-known TV personality.

Böhmermann sparked headlines around the world after his satire show "Neo Magazin Royal" broadcast a poem mocking Erdoğan in the most below-the-belt manner possible last Thursday. In the poem, aired by Mainz-based public broadcaster ZDF, Erdoğan is mocked for being a "professional idiot, cowardly and uptight" and is disparaged as having had sex with animals.

Erdoğan responded on Monday, with a formal legal complaint.

According to prosecutors, Erdoğan himself filed the criminal complaint, with his lawyers citing Paragraph 185 of the German Criminal Code, which makes slander a prosecutable offence. Officials at the public prosecutor's office say they are now reviewing the complaint.

'Slander and Insults'

Turkish government officials also say that Böhmermann has been served with a cease-and-desist order and that he now has until Wednesday to sign it and, by doing so, to show his intention to "not repeat the slander and insults."

With his poem, Böhmermann deliberately used disparaging formulations in order to highlight the difference between satire, which is legal in Germany, and forbidden abusive criticism. During the broadcast, he stated repeatedly that the highly disparaging poem was illegal. In response to massive criticism, ZDF deleted the broadcast from its archive.

The affair has created a major dilemma for the German government. Even prior to the Böhmermann affair, many observers believed Chancellor Angela Merkel had been too reserved in her criticism of Erdogan and his recent incursions into press freedoms and violations of human rights because she needs Turkey to help bring the refugee crisis under control.

And even before Erdoğan filed a complaint on Monday, it had already become clear that Böhmermann's poem would create a major scandal and spark tensions between the Turkish and German governments.

On Monday morning, during a press conference that itself almost bordered on satire, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert and Sawsan Chebli, the deputy spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, answered questions about Böhmermann's broadcast. They came across as being confused and perplexed -- as if they had been caught off guard.

More here.


An animated cartoon by Ann Telnaes:

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