Top German court dismisses comedian’s case over Erdoğan poem

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Germany’s highest court has dismissed a complaint by Jan Böhmermann, a comedian and presenter on public broadcaster ZDF, against rulings that prohibited him from repeating parts of an offensive poem he wrote about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported on Thursday.

Böhmermann had read an offensive poem about Erdoğan on ZDF TV in March 2016, which led to the delivery of a diplomatic note to Germany by the Turkish government. The poem described Erdoğan as “stupid, cowardly and uptight” before descending into sexual references.

Turkey had asked the German Foreign Ministry to put Böhmermann on trial on charges of “insulting a representative of a foreign state.”

Then-Chancellor Angela Merkel granted the Turkish request to allow possible prosecution for insulting a foreign head of state.

A Hamburg court issued an injunction ordering Böhmermann not to repeat most of the poem.

An appeals court upheld that decision, rejecting both Böhmermann’s appeal and a bid by Erdoğan’s lawyers to have the ban extended to the whole poem.

The case eventually went to the Federal Constitutional Court, which dismissed Böhmermann’s complaint on Jan. 26 and published the decision on Thursday.

The case “has no prospect of success,” the court said and didn’t elaborate on its reasoning.

In a separate case, a Berlin court in 2019 rejected a bid by Böhmermann to prohibit the German government from repeating Merkel’s assessment that the poem was “deliberately hurtful.”

Erdoğan frequently sues or files defamation lawsuits against opposition politicians or journalists criticizing him or his government’s policies.

Insulting the president is subject to criminal charges under the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), and thousands of people in the country are under investigation, with most of them facing the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of Erdoğan. Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.

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