Controversy rages in Berlin as Chancellor Angela Merkel faces the prospect of losing control over Germany’s government for allowing a German comedian to be prosecuted for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s increasingly dictatorial government has come under fire in recent months after repeated crackdowns on journalists, including deporting Sputnik Turkey’s bureau chief and imprisoning a Turkish MP for exposing the Ankara’s role in engaging in a false-flag sarin gas attack in Syria that almost brought the US to war.
In addition to cracking down on citizen dissent and freedom of the press, Erdogan’s administration has recently been implicated in arms and oil trade with Daesh extremists, flagrant human rights violations against Syrian refugees, wide-scale repression and violence against Kurds in Turkey and neighboring Syria, and using the Middle East refugee crisis to blackmail Europe to expand their funding commitment and expedite the country’s EU membership request, among other concerns.
The once-secular democracy has taken on a more severe Islamist posture in recent years, with the country’s leader conducting himself as an authoritarian, even when traveling. During a visit to Washington DC, Erdogan’s security team attacked US protesters, and this week Turkish officials threatened Europe with increasing flows of refugees if Turkish citizens were not granted visa-free travel to the continent by June.
Yet perhaps the most visible sign that the Turkish regime has become a simple dictatorship came on November 24, 2015, when the country’s military forces shot down a Russian aircraft engaged in counterterrorism efforts along the Syrian-Turkish border. One of the pilots was shot and killed by Daesh terrorists as he parachuted to the ground. The incident risked embroiling the US in a major East-West conflict.
European politicians find themselves perilously at the mercy of an increasingly totalitarian government led by a man who fancies himself a sultan for a new Ottoman Empire. The flood of refugees has been unpopular throughout the EU, and especially in Germany, and, sidestepping humanitarian standards, European politicians seeking reelection wish both the refugees and the Turks would go away.
In that context, the German Chancellor finds herself kowtowing to Erdogan. German law prohibits residents from insulting foreign heads of state publicly, with a punishment of one year if the insult is accidental, and five years if the insult is intentional. The law has not previously been enforced, the country having rejected prior requests for prosecution made on behalf of former US President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI.
Yet, when a popular German comedian took to the airwaves to poke fun at Erdogan, the Turkish leader complained, and Merkel not only agreed that her government should prosecute, but offered her opinion that the insult was purposeful, and worthy of the full five-year prison sentence.
Germans were immediately outraged by Chancellor Merkel’s favoring of the embattled Turkish leader over the interests of a German citizen. People have taken to social media with the hashtag #Notmychancellor, and have protested in the streets. Not only are German people appalled, but so are the country’s political elite.
One such politician is Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, who plans to submit legislation in Parliament abolishing the law under which the offending comedian finds his liberty in jeopardy.
The legislation comes as the Merkel government’s main coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), have broken with convention and pointedly expressed their opposition to Merkel’s actions.
The advance against the chancellor by her main parliamentary allies may spell an end to the German leader’s rule, as she learns that you can’t shake the devil’s hand, and say you’re only kidding.