Germany to Repeal Law Against Mocking Foreign Leaders

Jan Bohmermann
Courtesy of ZDF

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the obscure law to sue a German TV comedian over an obscene poem that suggested Erdogan had sex with goats.

Germany is ditching an obscure law that made it a crime to insult a foreign head of state.

The change, prompted by a court case against a German TV comedian who had insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Jan Boehmermann, the host of a Daily Show-style news satire program, read a lewd poem live on air that, among other things, alleged that Erdogan enjoyed sex with goats.

The poem was intended to mock Erdogan's authoritarian leadership style and was in response to the Turkish president calling for another, much tamer, satire of him from another German comedy show to be taken off the internet.

But Erdogan took legal action, charging Boehmermann under the old law, which makes slander of a foreign leader punishable by up to five years in prison. The court eventually threw out the case, citing lack of evidence.

The case led to a political scandal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially supported Erdogan's claim, leading to widespread criticism from freedom of speech advocates in Germany. Merkel had recently struck a deal with Turkey aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe, and many argued the German leader wanted to appease Turkey so as not to threaten the deal.

Erdogan is still engaged in a civil law suit against Boehmermann. A ruling is expected on Feb. 10 on Erdogan's action for an injunction.