BERLIN, April 16 (UPI) — Germany granted Turkey the right to pursue a criminal inquiry against a comedian who read a sexually suggestive poem with references to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Comic Jan Boehmermann recited a satirical poem on German broadcaster ZDF that stated Erdogan enjoyed child pornography and sex with animals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel enforced an obscure German law that prohibits insulting a foreign head of state and approved Turkey’s right to pursue prosecution against Boehmermann.
She said her government would move to repeal the rarely used law by 2018, but stated that it was up to Turkish prosecutors to decide if they wanted to press charges.
“In a state under the rule of law, it is not a matter for the government but rather for state prosecutors and courts to weigh personal rights issues and other concerns affecting press and artistic freedom,” she said.
If convicted, Boehmermann could face jail time, but some experts believe he might be able to receive legal protection because the act could be perceived as a commentary on free speech rather than an insult.
Early on, Merkel called the Boehmermann’s poem “deliberately offensive,” but later said a “presumption of innocence applies” to his case.” She has been criticized for failing to defend free speech.
The network did not air Boehmermann’s weekly program this week, but Director of ZDF Thomas Bellut told local media that he had the full legal support of the television station and that none of the employees involved in the production of the show would face punishment.