Comedian May Take Erdogan to Top German Court Over Bawdy Poem

  • Boehmermann lawyer may challenge ruling involving poem
  • Dispute exposes pitfalls in country’s dependence on Turkey

Comedian Jan Boehmermann may take his battle with Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a satirical poem that derided the Turkish president to Germany’s highest court.

The decision by a Hamburg court Tuesday to ban parts of the poem is “wrong” because it singles out individual lines and fails to look at the work of art in its entirety and in the context of the television show on which it was presented, Boehmermann’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, said Wednesday.

Jan Bhmermann
Jan Bhmermann
Photographer: Jazz Archiv/Uli Glockmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Schertz is considering challenging the decision at the Hamburg court, which would allow him to eventually bring the issue to the constitutional court in Karlsruhe, Germany’s top tribunal. Tuesday’s ruling was Erdogan’s second victory in several German lawsuits over jokes at his expense.

The dispute, which began with an over-the-top ditty directed at Erdogan on German television, exposes the pitfalls in the country’s dependence on Turkey to help restrict Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. The row has pulled in Chancellor Angela Merkel and Axel Springer SE Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner, one of the country’s most powerful media executives.

Boehmermann recited the poem in a routine that was designed to test a law that gives foreign heads of state the right to ask prosecutors to take action over libelous comments. The verse made outlandish references to a host of illicit practices.

Boehmermann isn’t allowed to repeat parts of the poem because they breached the boundaries of what’s protected as satire, the Hamburg court said Tuesday. The parts contain “racist prejudices and religious slanders” as well as sexual references; it cleared other sections that tackled Erdogan’s controversial policies and how he deals with freedom of speech.

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