Germany revokes ‘lese majeste’ law after Erdoğan’s attempt to have satirist indicted

German TV comedian Jan Böhmermann.

The German Bundestag on Friday revoked a law protecting heads of state and government from insults that Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invoked in an attempt to have a prominent German satirist indicted last year, Deutsche Welle has reported.

The decision of the Bundestag to scrap Germany’s archaic lese majeste law, which criminalized insults directed at foreign heads of state and government, will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

In spring of 2016, the Turkish government had officially asked German authorities to put Jan Böhmermann, a comedian and presenter on Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, on trial on charges of “insulting” Erdoğan in a satirical poem he read during a show.

During his weekly show “Neo Magazin Royal,” aired in March 2016, Böhmermann read a poem that made crude sexual jokes about Turkey’s president.

However, the satirist made clear that the poem’s intention was to show the difference between legitimate criticism and genuine insults, a satirical response to the thousands of “lese majeste” cases the Turkish president was pursuing in Turkey and abroad.

After Erdoğan asked the German government to authorize an investigation into Böhmermann, Chancellor Angela Merkel approved the request. However, prosecutors ultimately dropped the case in November last year, saying there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.


Meanwhile, Erdoğan has also filed a criminal complaint against Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a former Pentagon official, allegedly for “insulting” him and “committing crimes in the name of the Gülen movement in his social media messages,” the TGRT news website reported on Friday.

Michael Rubin

According to the report Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, has submitted a nine-page-long complaint at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Rubin.

In the complaint it is claimed that Rubin’s “unreasonable accusations and insulting social media messages are not only a reflection of the animosity and rage he feels for President Erdoğan, but also a reflection of his enmity towards the Republic of Turkey.”

Erdoğan’s lawyer also claimed that by sharing messages in Turkish on social media, Rubin committed crimes in the name of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In April, a group of Turkish lawyers also filed criminal complaints with the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against 17 prominent US figures including Rubin on allegations of being members of the Gülen movement or supporting it.

Mehmet Sarı and Rıza Saka are two of the lawyers who filed the criminal complaints against former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, US Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) President David Cohen, President of the Turkic American Alliance (TAA) Faruk Taban, lawyer Zafer Akın from the Turkish Cultural Center, Kemal Öksüz from the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, Emre Çelik from the Rumi Forum, former Turkish police chief Ahmet Sait Yayla, who currently resides in the US, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, American political analyst Graham E. Fuller, Mahmut Yeter from the Mid Atlantic Federation of Turkic American Associations, Talha Saraç from the Turkish American Business Network (TABN), CIA Director John Brenan, Recep Özkan, Burak Yeneroğlu and Ralph Peters as well as Rubin.

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt. (SCF with June 2, 2017

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