Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

News in Brief

  1. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  2. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  3. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack
  4. 'Don't look for answers to Brussels', EU tells UK
  5. Germany warns UK not to 'misuse' EU patience on Brexit
  6. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  7. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  8. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan
  2. 'Meme ban' still on table in EU copyright bill, says MEP
  3. Brexit power grab by MPs hangs over May's 'Plan B'
  4. Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute
  5. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?
  6. Seven member states miss climate plan deadline
  7. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  8. Germany led way on EU rights protection

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us