Germany allows criminal inquiry into joke about Turkish president

Germany allows criminal inquiry into joke about Turkish president

[JURIST] German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website] announced on Friday she will allow a criminal inquiry to proceed against German comedian Jan Boehmermann after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a complaint. The comedian made sexual references to Erdogan on the public television station ZDF [official website] two weeks ago and could be prosecuted under a rarely used section of the German criminal code [text] which allows prosecution for defamation of officials of foreign state. The relevant section of the code states

Whosoever insults a foreign head of state, or, with respect to his position, a member of a foreign government who is in Germany in his official capacity, or a head of a foreign diplomatic mission who is accredited in the Federal territory shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine, in case of a slanderous insult to imprisonment from three months to five years.

Experts believe [BBC report] he may have a strong defense against the charges due to the fact that the sexual references were part of a long satirical poem. Merkel has said she will attempt to repeal the law in the coming year.

Turkey has been accused of violating human rights freedoms on numerous recent occasions. In December the European Court of Human Rights ruled [JURIST report] unanimously that a Turkish court order blocking access to YouTube violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In April a prosecutor in Turkey ordered [JURIST report] Internet providers to block social networking sites including Twitter and YouTube. In September 2014 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party [party website] was taking steps to weaken the rule of law, control Internet and media and suppress critics and protesters. In April 2014 the Turkish government lifted a ban [JURIST report] on Twitter following a Constitutional Court ruling stating that the ban violated both individual rights as well as the freedom of expression.