German officials say they are examining a formal request by Turkey to prosecute a satirist for reciting a poem on TV mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that officials are carefully examining a request by Turkish embassy for “criminal prosecution” of Jan Boehmermann who read a satirical poem on ZDF television about Erdogan two weeks ago.
“The Turkish embassy, in connection with the ZDF broadcast ‘Neo Magazin Royale’, sent a cable to the foreign ministry,” Seibert said, adding, “The content of this cable and the way forward will now be carefully examined by the government.”
Seibert said the review would decide in a matter of days whether a probe could be launched under Section 103 of the criminal code which addresses cases of insulting organs or representatives of foreign states. According to the law, the charges can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The official said, however, that Germany
will remain committed to its constitutional obligation on freedom of expression.
“This applies, and this is very important to me, regardless of whether the chancellor personally finds something artistically successful or repellent, tasteful or tasteless,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had called Boehmermann’s poem about Erdogan “deliberately insulting” during a telephone call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davotoglu last week. A preliminary probe was also launched by German prosecutors over the so-called “Defamatory Poem”.
The ZDF apologized over the piece of satire, saying the show “had crossed the line into slander.” A rerun of the program was pulled from air.
Journalists have criticized Merkel for kowtowing to Turkey’s demands at a time Berlin has been relying on Ankara to implement terms of a controversial deal on taking back refugees from the European shores.