Europe

German court upholds its ban on comedian's Erdogan poem

German comedian and television host Jan Boehmermann Image copyright EPA
Image caption German comedian Jan Boehmermann was given police protection after the poem was aired

A German court has upheld its ban on a satirical poem that mocks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Hamburg court said that it stands by its order, issued last May, which prohibited republication of parts of a poem by German comic Jan Boehmermann.

The satirist, who is barred for repeating the majority of the verses, says he will appeal the verdict.

The poem, first broadcast in 2016, led to a free speech debate in Germany, and diplomatic tension with Turkey.

Mr Boehmermann's lawyer, Christian Schertz, said Friday's verdict "does not take into account freedom of artistic expression".

But in a statement, the court said: "Satire that is secured under artistic freedom could be forbidden when it touches on the core area of personal freedom."

However, the court also said that a head of state must expect heavier criticism than a regular citizen.

The poem played on President Erdogan's reputation for cracking down on free speech at home, and included vulgar sexual references.

The Turkish president filed a criminal complaint against the satirist after it was broadcast on German television last March.

The criminal charges were later dropped, but the poem remains banned in Germany.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken swift action against critics

The case hinges on a rarely used 19th-century section of German's criminal code that prohibits defamation of foreign heads of state.

Mr Boehmermann, considered Germany's most incisive satirist, had read the obscene poem on his Neo Magazin Royale programme, making clear that it included material that broke German laws on free speech.

After the case became a national talking point, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the authorities would move to repeal article 103 - concerning insults against foreign heads of state - by 2018.

President Erdogan has drawn much criticism in Turkey and internationally for targeting political opponents and jailing journalists.

In its first ruling, the court in Hamburg said that comments on Mr Erdogan's treatment of freedom of speech were allowed, but said the sexual references were unacceptable.

The court objected to 18 of the poem's 24 lines, deeming them "abusive and defamatory".

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