Germany is considering a request from Turkey to prosecute a TV comedian who wrote a crude poem about the Turkish president, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Monday.
The request poses an awkward choice for the German leader as she relies on Turkey to reduce the influx of migrants to Europe.
Turkey sent a diplomatic note making “a formal request for criminal prosecution” of comedian Jan Boehmermann, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Boehmermann read the poem on ZDF television two weeks ago to illustrate what he said wouldn’t be allowed in Germany, contrasting it with another channel’s satirical song that also poked fun at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Germany’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara last month to hear a protest over that song.
Mainz prosecutors told the dpa news agency late Monday that Erdogan had also filed his own complaint accusing Boehmermann of slander, adding that it would be considered as part of the ongoing investigation.
While the German government defended the song as legitimate free speech, it has strongly distanced itself from the poem. Seibert has said that Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu agreed the poem was “deliberately offensive.”
Germany’s criminal code provides for up to three years in prison or a fine for insulting a foreign head of state. However, it stipulates that such offenses are only prosecuted if the country in question seeks prosecution and the German government allows it.
Seibert told reporters Monday that officials would take several days to decide whether to allow prosecutors to proceed in the case, but stressed that Merkel holds free speech in high regard. It is “negotiable neither at home nor abroad,” he said.