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Angela Merkel accepts Turkish request to seek prosecution of German comedian

The comedian Jan Böhmermann is accused of insulting Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on German television

Ashley Cowburn
Friday 15 April 2016 12:24 BST

Angela Merkel has accepted a request from Turkey to seek the prosecution of a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on German television.

Under an obscure paragraph of Germany's criminal code, the government has to authorise prosecutors to pursue a case against the comedian, Jan Böhmermann, who stands accused of insulting a foreign leader.

"There were different opinions between the coalition partners – the conservatives and the SPD (Social Democrats)," Ms Merkel said.

"The outcome is that the German government will give the authorisation in the current case," she added, stressing that this was not a decision about the merits of the prosecution's case against Böhmermann.

However, the German leader also announced that the country would by 2018 scrap the rarely enforced section 103 of the criminal code – insulting representatives of foreign states – as a result of the embarrassing affair.

According to Reuters, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat, said this was the first such case in which the statement at stake was made by a journalist in a satirical program. "Freedom of opinion, the press and art are things requiring the highest protection under our constitution," and that also needed to be taken into account, he said.

"The idea of lese-majeste no longer has a place in our criminal law," Maas said.

The German Federation of Journalists added Ms Merkel's announcement sent "the wrong signal to the Turkish government."

In the poem Böhmermann calls the Turkish premier a "goat fucker" and also says Mr Erdogan "watches child porn while kicking Kurds", in reference to accusations against him that he is persecuting the Kurdish minority in the country.

"Erdogan is definitely a president with a small tail," adds the comedian, in a line where "tail" is understood in German to refer to another part of the male anatomy.

Ms Merkel has recently helped broker a deal with Mr Erdogan that for every refugee returned from Greece back to Turkey, one will be admitted into the EU from Turkey's refugee camps.

Additional reporting by agencies

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