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Turkey demands Germany action over poem

BBC News BBC News 11/04/2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of local administrators in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, April 6, 2016 © AP Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of local administrators in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Turkey has made a formal request to Germany to prosecute a TV satirist for reading an obscene poem about President Erdogan, officials in Berlin say.

Jan Boehmermann made clear before he read the poem that it contained allegations that breached German rules on free speech.

Germany prosecutors launched a preliminary inquiry, as insulting foreign leaders is considered illegal.

Broadcaster ZDF has said it will stand by Boehmermann.

"The programme will carry on as before," it said, insisting that collaboration with Boehmermann would continue.

However, the public TV network removed the video from the internet last week.

The government has said it will consider the Turkish request, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel saw freedom of speech as non-negotiable.

Germany's free speech row - by Damien McGuinness, BBC News, Berlin

Jan Boehmermann is Germany's most daring comedian, proving that the country's ordinarily stuffy public broadcasters can be innovative.

But try to find the sketch online now and a message comes up saying that it's not available for copyright reasons. In fact the clip has been deleted by the channel that broadcasts the show.

Some have called the sketch art. Others say it's puerile and vulgar. But whether its author should be prosecuted is quite another question.

There is outrage in Germany that a publicly-funded channel has appeared to bow down to pressure from the Turkish government, which is already accused of suppressing free speech back home.

And Chancellor Angela Merkel's opinion that the poem is "deliberately offensive" has laid her open to accusations that she is not standing up for free speech because Europe needs Turkey to help solve the refugee crisis.

The poem was broadcast in late March on Boehmermann's Neo Magazin Royale show.

It was in response to an earlier Turkish complaint about a satirical song on German TV mocking President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian style and crackdown on civil liberties.

The German ambassador was summoned by the government in Ankara after the song, "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan", was broadcast on the public NDR TV channel. The German government and the EU defended the song as an example of free speech.

Boehmermann hit back, delivering the poem during his late-night show as an example of what he was not allowed to do under Germany's criminal code.

The poem featured references to sex with goats and sheep as well as references to repression of Turkey's minorities.

Twenty complaints were made and prosecutors in Mainz announced they were investigating whether it had broken section 103 of the criminal code, which bans insulting representatives or organs belonging to foreign states.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters on Monday that the government in Ankara had sent Germany's foreign ministry a diplomatic note with "a formal request for criminal prosecution".

The note would be examined, he added. "It will take a few days. I can't and don't want to anticipate the results of this examination."

Boehmermann is widely known in Germany for his incisive satire. Last year, he produced a video of Greece's then-finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, raising his middle finger to Germany.

After his poem was pulled from the internet on 1 April, he tweeted: "I think today, 1 April 2016, we've shown impressively together with ZDF where the limits of satire lie here in Germany. Finally!"

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