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German Chancellor grants authorization to go after Comedian for Insulting Turkish President Erdogan

15. April 2016

German Chancellor grants authorization to go after Comedian for Insulting Turkish President Erdogan

Today on the 15th of April, 2016, the German government led by  German Chancellor Angela Merkel approved a request from Turkey to prosecute ZDF comedian and moderator Jan Böhmermann. He could face possible charges for performing a poem in which he insulted the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who filed a criminal complaint with the state prosecutor in Mainz, where ZDF is headquartered.

He could be prosecuted based on Section 103 of the German criminal code which states [1]:

Defamation of organs and representatives of foreign states
(1) 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.
(2) If the offence was committed publicly, in a meeting or through the dissemination of written materials (section 11(3)) Section 200 shall apply. An application for publication of the conviction may also be filed by the prosecution service.

Jan Böhmermann could face a maximum prison sentence of 5 years or receive a fine.

Some reactions from notable German politicans:

Sahra Wagenknecht, member of the Bundestag and deputy chairperson of the Left-party, released the following statement on her facebook page:

Chancellor Merkel is not only a coward but also dishonest. A criminal procedure against Böhmermann ist not compulsory. It is only being pursued because the German government agreed to undertake a criminal procedure. Merkel should admit that to the very least when she is already bowing down unbearably to the despot Erdogan. I find: When Terror-Godfathers can put freedom of the press and expression into question, then there is something deeply wrong about the way things are functioning in this country. [2]

Hans-Christian Ströbele, member of the German Green party, released the following comment following Merkel’s decision to go after Böhmermann:

The Chancellor [Merkel] wants to give Erdogan a mild approval and is entangling herself. Freedom of the press and speech are in threat of being curbed. She [Merkel] is deciding politically when she grants authorization to prosecute Böhmermann for insulting Turkish president Erdogan with paragraph 103 of the German criminal code, which entails a high threat of punishment of 3-5 years in prison. Her evocations of holding high values for freedom of press, expression and satire sound empty thereafter. The reasoning that the independent judiciary – office of the district attorney and court – should decide whether there is punishment for insulting does not justify her decision in anyway. The judiciary would have to decide anyhow after Erdogan filed a complaint. The prosecutor’s office determines and reviews whether the insult after paragraph 185 of the German criminal code should be lifted. It’s totally absurd that the Chancellor is clearing the way for the usage of penal provisions that she herself consider unnecessary and wanted to abolish. All of this is taking place only to give Erdogan a mild approval. [3]

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1. GERMAN CRIMINAL CODE, § CHAPTER THREE-Section 103 (1998). Online.

2. Wagenknecht, Sahra. Facebook. 06 Apr. 2016. Web. <>.

3. Ströbele, Hans Christian. Facebook. 06 Apr. 2016. Web. <öbele-96698547915/?fref=nf>.

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