Investigation into German comedian who insulted Erdogan on live TV dropped

Published October 5th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
German comedian Jan Boehmermann in Berlin. (AFP/Jörg Carstensen)
German comedian Jan Boehmermann in Berlin. (AFP/Jörg Carstensen)

German prosecutors said Tuesday that they had dropped an investigation into comedian Jan Boehmermann for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latest twist in a spat that strained already tense relations between Ankara and Berlin.

In April, the German government approved criminal proceedings against Boehmermann for reciting a crude poem on broadcaster ZDF in which he said Erdogan watched child pornography and performed sex acts with animals.

The investigation was carried out under Germany's defamation law and a little-used statute against insulting foreign heads of state, prompting a heated debate about the limits of free speech in Germany.

Prosecutors in Mainz - where ZDF is based - said it was unclear whether Boehmermann was being intentionally slanderous and that the poem was likely within the bounds of satire.

"Criminal actions could not be substantiated with adequate certainty," prosecutors said in a statement.

Boehmermann claims he read the poem to illustrate the difference between acceptable satire and slander in Germany.

On his Facebook page, Boehmermann said he would issue a statement on Wednesday.

"Hey, media: Tomorrow, Wednesday 5/10/2016 I will make my personal stance clear in detail at 16:30 (1430 GMT). More here," he wrote.

Whether Boehmermann plans to take questions by journalists was unclear.

The Turkish government declined to comment on the decision. A separate defamation complaint filed against Boehmermann by Erdogan's German lawyers will be heard by a Hamburg court on November 2.

The case also raised questions about the European Union's deal to return migrants from Greece to Turkey, which critics say has made European leaders beholden to Erdogan in their bid to end the refugee crisis.

In an apparent effort to smooth ties between Ankara and Berlin, seven German parliamentarians on Tuesday began a visit to Turkey that will include going to a key military base.

The group will visit German soldiers at an airforce base in Incirlik, a meeting which had been prohibited by the Turkish government after the German parliament passed a resolution in June that labelled as genocide the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago.

The Turkish government however allowed the visit after the German government declared the resolution not legal binding.

There were "close relations" between German and Turkey, said Yusuf Beyazit, the chairman of the Turkey's Defence Commission.

Beyazit stated that the German government's declaration had "positively influenced" relations, and added "I hope that the events of 1915 will in the future no longer be exploited."

"Turkey and Germany are partners," said Karl Lamers, the leader of the German delegation, pointing to the joint NATO fight against the Islamic State terrorist militia.

The visit to the airforce base, which will also include talks with Turkish and US commanders, is due to go ahead on Wednesday.

By Friederike Heine and Mirjam Schmitt

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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