Scandal over TV comedian

Calls grow to scrap law on insulting foreign leaders

Calls grow to scrap law on insulting foreign leaders
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) has Chancellor Angela Merkel (r) in an uncomfortable position over the affair. Photo: DPA
The centre-left Social Democratic Party said on Tuesday that Germany should scrap a law against insulting foreign leaders – which has been used by the Turkish President to target a German comedian.

“The honour of a head of state is just as important as the honour of a normal citizen,” SPD leader in the Bundestag (German parliament) Thomas Oppermann said in Berlin.

SPD MPs are ready to repeal the paragraph banning insults against foreign leaders, Oppermann went on, calling it an “antiquated rule” that should not be updated but simply abolished.

Changing the law would also allow the federal government to avoid having to make a decision on whether to prosecute comedian Jan Böhmermann, who is being pursued by Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan for a “slanderous poem” he read out on air, Oppermann said.

But a legal expert told Reuters Deutschland that it would be highly unlikely that the repeal would have a retroactive effect.

'Determined he will be punished'

Meanwhile, Erdogan's German lawyer told broadcaster ZDF that the Turkish President would pursue a separate legal case that he has filed as a private individual to the highest court in the land.

“The President is determined that the defendant will be punished and is also determined that he will not repeat what he has said in the future,” Hubertus von Sprenger said on Tuesday evening.

“A legal punishment “is necessary to bring [Böhmermann] back onto the right path of creating satire, not blunt insults,” he went on.

Böhmermann has cancelled his show slated for Thursday and is under police protection at his home in Cologne as the whole country asks what will happen next in the saga.

The affair has put Chancellor Angela Merkel in an uncomfortable position, as she seeks to back freedom of speech at home without alienating Erdogan, who is critical to her deal with Turkey to reduce the number of refugees arriving in Europe.

Critics say that the battle over Böhmermann is just one more indication of why Germany and its EU neighbours shouldn't be working with Erdogan, who has presided over a crackdown on press freedom and opposition politics.

CORRECTION: This story earlier made reference to an interview supposedly given by Jan Böhmermann to former Bild editor Kai Diekmann. It now appears that the interview was a fake. We have removed the quote and regret the error.