German Court Rules Against Comic Boehmermann Over Erdoğan Poem

ggggA German court on Tuesday banned a comedian from repeating large sections of a satirical text about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, handing the Turkish President a partial victory in his efforts to silence mockery and criticism in Germany of his person and policies.

The regional Hamburg court ruling on a complaint by the Turkish president said the text by comedian Jan Böhmermann qualified as satire and that those parts of it targeted at the president’s policies or leadership could be quoted.

However, the bulk of the text was described by the court as religiously disparaging, “reflecting prejudice of a racist nature” and containing sexual content. Those parts breached Mr. Erdoğan’s rights and couldn’t be repeated, the court said.The lawyer representing Mr. Erdogan in this case couldn’t be reached for comment, but Ralf Höcker, a lawyer representing the president in a separate but related case welcomed the decision. “Racist insults aren’t covered by the right to freedom of opinion,” said Mr. Höcker. “That’s this decision’s important message.” The Turkish President’s office declined to comment.The court order, or preliminary injunction, can be appealed.
Meanwhile, Christian Schertz, a lawyer for Mr. Böhmermann, said the court had failed to grasp the comedian’s ironic detachment.

“The regional court of Hamburg makes the mistake of dissecting the poem and taking out and banning certain aaaaremarks that it regards as being degrading. This isn’t possible in the field of artistic freedom. Instead, the poem must be considered in its entirety and in the context of the (television) show.”

He said he and Mr. Böhmermann would consider their options and may seek to bring the dispute to a higher court.

The Hamburg court ruling came in a civil suit filed by Mr. Erdogan against Mr. Böhmermann as a private individual.

After the text aired on March 31, Turkey used an obscure German law banning insults against foreign leaders to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel for authorization to file a criminal complaint against the comedian, which she granted, sparking an uproar at home from defenders of free speech. That criminal case has yet to be heard and will take place in a court in Mainz.

Mr. Böhmermann’s sketch has caused serious diplomatic friction between Berlin and Ankara at a time when Germany has become reliant on Turkey to stem the heavy flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East into Northern Europe.

The poem Mr. Böhmermann recited on his late-night show was crafted to test the limits of the acceptable, the comedian has said, as an ironic take on Mr. Erdoğan’s attempt to ban an earlier sketch on a different comedy show.

Public broadcaster ZDF pulled Mr. Böhmermann’s segment from its online archive shortly after it aired.