German court dismisses Erdoğan’s appeal to ban satirical poem

German TV comedian Jan Böhmermann.

A German court on Tuesday rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appeal to ban outright a satirical poem recited by a comedian on German television, which had soured already-strained ties between Berlin and Ankara.

According to a report by Reuters, judges, however, upheld a ban by a lower court in 2017 on certain passages of the poem, read out two years ago by German comedian Jan Boehmermann and which suggested Erdoğan engaged in bestiality and watched child pornography.

The higher regional court of Hamburg confirmed the ruling of the district court of Hamburg that parts of the poem could be banned because they contained degradations of an intimate and sexual nature for which there was no evidence.

Boehmermann had appealed for the partial ban to be lifted. The court ruled the poem could not be completely banned because of Germany’s free speech laws. “Satire can be art but it doesn’t have to be,” said Judge Andreas Buske. “If satire is not art, it is protected by the freedom of opinion.”

It decided that in view of developments in Turkey under Erdoğan’s leadership, criticism, including severe criticism, is admissible and that Erdoğan must accept that.

In a separate case, German prosecutors in Mainz in October 2016 dropped an investigation into Boehmermann, who was accused of offending a foreign leader after reciting the poem. They said they had not found sufficient evidence to suggest that any criminal offences had been committed by Boehmermann or anyone else involved in making or broadcasting the piece.

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