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Legal opinion finds Erodgan 'smear poem' not criminal

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Legal opinion finds Erodgan 'smear poem' not criminal
TV satirist Jan Böhmermann. File photo: DPA
17:27 CEST+02:00
There was good news for satirist Jan Böhmermann on Thursday, as broadcaster ZDF published a legal opinion claiming a "smear poem" he directed at Turkey's President was within the bounds of the law.

Lawyers hired by broadcaster ZDF – home to Böhmermann's weekly TV show Neo Magazin Royale – said that the satirist was within his rights to insult President Recep Tayyip Erdogan crudely.

Böhmermann has been under police protection at his home in Cologne this week as Erdogan launched an official complaint to the German government under a little-used law banning insults against foreign heads of state.

Erdogan has also launched a private legal proceeding against the TV comic, who among many insults called Erdogan a “goat fucker” who “watches child porn while kicking Kurds” in the poem, which Böhmermann acknowledged deliberately played with the boundaries of permissible speech.

The lawyers said the poem was clearly intended as a comment on Erdogan's angry reaction to a satirical song from comedy show Extra 3 the previous week – not as a direct attack on his honour.

As such, it was within the bounds of satire defended under the German constitution – although it did not live up to internal quality and taste regulations at ZDF.

It will be welcome news for Böhmermann supporters inside and outside the broadcaster, who have been calling for the government to reject Turkey's call to pursue Böhmermann and for the poem to be made available online again after ZDF took it down.

While that second objective looks unlikely to be fulfilled, the legal opinion will be further ammunition in what many see as a battle to defend free speech in Germany against outside interference.

And it will amplify criticism of the German government's slowness in deciding whether to go ahead with prosecution against Böhmermann.

Chancellor Angela Merkel – who wants to remain on Erdogan's good side so as to keep a controversial refugee exchange deal between the EU and Turkey alive – refused to be drawn on the Böhmermann case at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday afternoon.

“Consultations on that theme are continuing, and we'll let you know when they are over,” she told journalists.

SEE ALSO: Calls grow to scrap law on insulting foreign leaders

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