Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Merkel authorises probe into Erdogan satire

The German government has authorised criminal proceedings requested by Turkey against a comedian over a satirical poem about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The decision, taken on Friday (15 April), is likely to amplify debate in Germany over freedom of expression versus good relations with Turkey, which has pledged to help the EU to stem the flow of migrants.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under German law probes on insulting organs or representatives of foreign states can go forward only with the approval of the federal government.

The offence can carry a punishment of up to three years in prison.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, announcing the decision, said the judiciary would have to decide whether Jan Boehmermann, a popular TV comedian, could be convicted under the rarely enforced legislation.

"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," Merkel said.

She said that her decision was not a prejudgement of Boehmermann's guilt.

She added that the government would move to scrap the old law by 2018.

Ankara filed a formal request earlier this week for a criminal inquiry to be launched against Boehmermann.

His poem accused Erdogan of bestiality and paedophilia as well as human rights abuses.

He said that the satire was designed to test German law.

Opposition heat

Merkel said that there had been a heated debate within the government over the decision.

Her coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), attacked the decision and two senior SPD ministers expressed disapproval.

Justice minister Heiko Maas said his ministry did not support the decision authorising the probe. Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he opposed the criminal prosecution.

"I consider this decision wrong," the SPD parliamentary group leader, Thomas Oppermann, tweeted. He added that the lese-majeste law did "not fit in a modern democracy".

Sahra Wagenknecht, from the leftist Die Linke party, called it "unbearable kowtowing" to the "Turkish despot Erdogan" at the "expense of press freedom in Germany".

Migrant deal at stake

The issue comes at a sensitive time for Merkel, who has tried to get irregular migration under control via an EU-Turkey deal on taking back most migrants who tried to enter the EU via Greece.

Her handling of the migration crisis has prompted her approval rating to plummet ahead of elections next year.

Over 1 million people fleeing poverty and conflicts arrived in Germany since the start of last year. Turkey is hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees.

According to internal minutes of an EU meeting leaked to Greek media, Erdogan last year threatened top EU officials to flood Europe with migrants.

"We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria any time and we can put the refugees on buses ... So how will you deal with refugees if you don't get a deal? Kill the refugees?” he said, according to the Greek report.

Erdogan in March also thumbed his nose at Europe by seizing a prominent opposition newspaper, Zaman, on the eve of an EU summit.

Two leading Turkish journalists, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, face life in prison in an ongoing trial for exposing secret arms shipments to Syria.

In a direct echo of the Boehmermann case, Turkey has in the past two years also indicted more than 1,800 people for “insulting” state institutions.

A popular comedian, Cem Yilmaz, went on trial earlier this month after being accused of insulting a provincial governor.

Merkel in tight spot over anti-Erdogan comedian

German satirist could face three years in prison for insulting Turkish president, but only if Merkel gives the green light, amid concerns on Turkey's implementation of EU migrant deal.

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

Turkey free speech row goes EU-wide

Turkey's EU embassy has called for legal action against a Dutch comic for insulting its president, lifting a dispute on free speech, which began in Germany, to a European level.

MPs demand Council become more transparent

Three Dutch MPs, on behalf of 26 national parliamentary chambers across the EU, are demanding more transparency. 'The Eurogroup is the most opaque of them all,' complained Dutch MP Omtzigt.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  2. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  3. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  4. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents
  5. Hahn: EU to back entry talks with Albania and Macedonia
  6. UEFA signs deal to promote 'European values' at EURO 2020
  7. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  8. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  2. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  3. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  4. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  5. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  6. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  7. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  8. We are not (yet) one people

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission