17:20 GMT30 October 2020
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    Bowing to pressure from Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to let prosecutors pursue a case against a satirist who lampooned the Turkish president. Speaking with Radio Sputnik, Dr. Alexander Thiele of Freie Universitat Berlin discusses how Merkel’s decision could backfire.

    "It is probably one the most remarkable issues we have had in this respect for the last several years," Dr. Thiele says, referring to Germany’s decision to pursue criminal charges against Jan Boehmermann after he recited a satirical poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    "However, it is, indeed, somewhat interesting, or, let’s say, not very clever of her, to have mentioned her personal view on what she thinks of the poem," he said.

    Whether driven by her own personal beliefs or diplomacy, Merkel agreed with the Turkish president.

    This combo made with file pictures shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) in Lima on February 2, 2016 and German TV comedian Jan Böhmermann on February 22, 2012 in Berlin

    "[Merkel] said that she agreed with him that the poem was intentionally offending towards Mr. Erdogan. Which is obviously a statement regarding the content of the poem itself, which she probably should not have taken as the German chancellor," Thiele says.

    The poem referred to the Turkish president "repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians while watching child porn," among other things. While its contents are certainly inflammatory, that was, after all, the point.

    "This whole poem was intended to be unjustified by Mr. Boehmermann. That’s exactly what he said. ‘The following poem, now, I’m going to tell you, is unacceptable and not legally possible in Germany," Thiele says.

    "The question is whether this poem, this illegal poem, gets legal again due to the educational surroundings in which Mr. Boehmermann tried to make clear the real boundaries of freedom of speech in Germany."

    The satirist faces two charges: insulting a head of state and insulting a private person.

    "In both cases the main question to be answered is: Is it an insult that Mr. Boehmermann has presented here, or does the freedom of speech cover such behavior?"

    Merkel’s decision comes amid a European Parliament resolution condemning Turkey’s worsening record for press freedom and human rights.

    "It was a sort of political dilemma she brought herself [into], because she immediately agreed with Mr. Erdogan that it was an offending and insulting poem, so she couldn’t really get out of this, politically."


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    freedom of speech, Jan Boehmermann, Angela Merkel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Germany, Turkey
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