Will German prosecutors act as enforcers for Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan? Deutsche Welle reports:
Jan Böhmermann could face three years in prison for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the weekly satirical variety show “Neo Magazin Royale.” Before reciting his satirical poem on March 31, Böhmermann called it an example of speech that Germany would not permit. He was perhaps more right than he expected.“It could be a violation of section 103 of the criminal code: insulting organs or representatives of foreign states,” prosecution spokesman Gerd Deutschler said on Wednesday.Prosecutors in the western city of Mainz, where ZDF is based, plan to consult the federal Justice Ministry on whether to launch criminal proceedings in the name of the Turkish state or President Erdogan himself. […]On the broadcast, Böhmermann, seated before the Turkish flag and a portrait of Erdogan, accuses the president of, among other things, sex with goats and sheep. Böhmermann also charged that Erdogan loves to “repress minorities, kick Kurds and beat Christians while watching child porn.”
Laws on speech vary from country to country and are stricter in Germany than many other Western nations; Böhmermann himself acknowledged that what he was doing was technically illegal; and some of his comments certainly are in poor taste. But all that granted, Erdogan does have a pretty well-established record of egregiously repressing domestic enemies—and he has been doing far more than merely repressing the Kurds in Turkey.As for Erdogan, you might expect such a long-serving leader to have a thicker skin. Surely he can find some corner of his thousand-room, $350m palace to cry in? (Of course, once you start to live like a caliph, you start to expect to be treated like one everywhere you go. Erdogan’s bodyguards roughed up protesters and journalists in Washington, D.C. during his visit last month.)In any case, Angela Merkel dutifully sprung to action after conferring with Turkish PM Davutoglu:
A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel released a statement Monday that condemned the poem, explaining that “satire takes place within our country’s press and media freedom, which — as you know — is not unlimited.”Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu welcomed Merkel’s comments on Tuesday but said that any insult to Erdogan was an insult to all Turkish people’s honor. It would not go without a “response,” Davutoglu explained.
All in all, this has been a sad spectacle. Germany clearly needs Turkey to hold up its end of the most recent EU-Turkey deal and keep refugees from flooding Europe. (Erdogan was already threatening to abrogate the bargain unless the “precision conditions” [sic] of it are met.) As we wrote when Turkey and the EU hammered out their first bargain this fall, Europe’s lack of a refugee policy and a Syria policy put Erdogan in the catbird seat, and compelled the EU to pay a high moral price for the deal. This is likely just the first down-payment.