German comedian could face jail for insulting Erdogan

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German comedian could face jail for insulting Erdogan
Jan Böhmermann. Photo: DPA

Germany’s hippest young comedian faces a jail sentence of up to five years if Turkey decides to press charges over a poem he wrote insulting its head of state.


Jan Böhmermann knew what he was doing when he read out a self-penned poem insulting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan live on his late night show on Thursday evening.

He introduced the piece by speaking directly to the Turkish president.

“What I’m about to read is not allowed. If it were to be read in public - that would be forbidden in Germany,” Böhmermann said, before proceeding to perform his "smear poem" which, among many insults, called Erdogan a “goat fucker” who “watches child porn while kicking Kurds.”

Böhmermann has reached an unrivalled level of popularity among Germany’s youth for his boundary-pushing humour in a comedy scene which is often dry and formulaic.

He was reacting to an official complaint made by the Turkish government against a satirical song broadcast on public television in March which mocked Erdogan for his pomposity and his poor human rights record.

WATCH: The video Turkey wants banned from Germany

News agency DPA learned from Turkish government sources at the time that Ankara had demanded the film never be broadcast again.

It appears that Böhmermann was trying to explain the difference between satire and slander to the Turkish head of state - with his poem very much being an instance of the latter.

But Tagesspiegel now reports that the legal consequences for the comedian could be as severe as five years in jail.

The Berlin newspaper cites an internal legal assessment conducted by the Foreign Ministry which concludes that it is “highly likely” Böhmermann committed a crime.

The Foreign Ministry conducted the assessment in an emergency meeting after their Turkish counterparts expressed serious displeasure at the poem.

According to paragraph 103 of the German Criminal Code, insulting a foreign head of state can result in a three-year jail term, or if the insult is an intended slander, the sentence can stretch to five years.

Broadcaster ZDF has since removed the poem from its website.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also personally intervened with a phone call to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in which she described the sketch as a “deliberate insult”.

For Böhmermann to face legal action, the Turkish government will have to make an official complaint.

According to Tagesspiegel, Merkel’s intervention calmed the Turkish government, making it less likely they will resort to this measure.


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