After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took grave offense to a satirical attack by a comic on March 31, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to allow the prosecution of the German comedian, citing a law that criminalizes insults towards people of power.
Merkel announced Friday that she would authorize a criminal investigation that is set to examine whether prominent comedian Jan Böhmermann committed an illegal act by reciting a satirical poem about the Turkish president on German TV.
During a broadcast on German broadcaster ZDF, Böhmermann honed in on Erdogan, suggesting that he hits women. The comic also poked fun at the possibility that the Turkish president watches child pornography and is a fan of bestiality.
Needless to say, Erdogan was not amused. Since he came to power back in 2014, he has already managed to lodge more than 1,800 criminal cases against people who offended him. Just last year, he had two cartoonists arrested after they published a political cartoon that did not sit well with the Turkish president.
Fortunately for Erdogan, Germany actually has a law that prohibits people from offending those in power. However, the law was created back when Germany was still under a monarchy, with the law targeting those who offend the nation's royalty. Thus, it is quite outdated and is set to be repealed starting 2018.
During her announcement, Merkel emphasized the importance of Turkey as a partner.
"The result is, that the German government grants the right to prosecute Jan Böhmermann. I want to explain further that Turkey is a state with whom we have strong ties. There are a lot of Turkish citizen living in Germany. We have strong economic relations and our responsibility to work together in the NATO," she said.
She did, however, state that the final decision would be left to prosecutors and the nation's courts.
The Chancellor's decision was quickly criticized by a number of prominent people, with Thomas Oppermann, the head of the Social Democrats Merkel's own partner in the coalition government, disagreeing with her decision.
"I think this decision is wrong. Criminal proceedings against satire for 'insulting a majesty' do not fit in with modern Germany," he said.
If convicted, Böhmermann might face up to three years in prison, or face a fine.