German prosecutors probe Erdogan 'bestiality' TV satire

2 min

Berlin (AFP)

German prosecutors on Wednesday announced a preliminary probe into a TV satirist who crudely insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on air in the midst of a row with Turkey over freedom of expression.

Comedian Jan Boehmermann accused Erdogan, among other things, of having sex with goats and sheep in his "Defamatory Poem" that, a smiling Boehmermann declared on air, openly breaches Germany's legal limits to free speech.

About 20 viewers agreed and launched criminal complaints over the offending clip, which Chancellor Angela Merkel through a spokesman labelled "deliberately insulting".

Prosecutors in the western city of Mainz, where public broadcaster ZDF is based, have now opened a probe to assess whether the poem screened a late-night show at the end of March indeed constitutes a criminal offence.

"It could be a violation of section 103 of the criminal code -- insulting organs or representatives of foreign states," which carries up to three years' jail, prosecution spokesman Gerd Deutschler told AFP.

The prosecutors would ask ZDF to provide them with the footage which was taken offline on April 1, he said, adding that for a criminal case to proceed the Turkish government would have to file an official complaint.

In the German-language rhyme Boehmermann, seated before the Turkish flag and a portrait of Erdogan, also charges that the Turkish leader loves to "repress minorities, kick Kurds and beat Christians while watching child porn".

The comedian was reacting to Ankara's decision to call in Germany's ambassador in protest over a previous satirical song broadcast on German TV which lampooned Erdogan in far tamer language.

The two-minute clip "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan", set to the tune of a 1980s pop song, takes aim at the Turkey president over his alleged spending excesses and his government's crackdown on civil liberties.

Berlin's muted response to Turkey's diplomatic protest sparked criticism in Germany that Merkel's government was kowtowing to the Turkish leader because Europe needs him to curb the influx of migrants setting sail for the EU from Turkey's shores.

After his own clip was taken off air and the internet, Boehmermann noted ironically that he and his employer had now "demonstrated the limits of satire in Germany, finally!"