BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s desire to resolve the migrant crisis won’t change its commitment to free speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday, after Turkey sought the prosecution of a German comedian for a crude poem about the Turkish president.
Ankara has demanded to have comedian Jan Boehmermann prosecuted for insulting a foreign head of state, a move that Merkel’s government would have to approve under German law. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also has filed a criminal complaint against Boehmermann under a separate law, alleging slander.
Turkey’s sharp response to satire directed at Erdogan has put Merkel, who has championed cooperation with Ankara to stem the migrant flow to Europe, in an awkward position.
Merkel said Turkey’s request is being considered “very carefully” and reiterated that Germany will reach a conclusion within days.
She said it is in the interests of both Turkey and the European Union to find a “political solution” to the migrant issue — “but that is all completely independent of the fact that fundamental rights in Germany including … the freedom of speech, opinion and academia are valid and completely uncoupled from this.”
Boehmermann read the poem on ZDF television two weeks ago to illustrate what he said wouldn’t be allowed in Germany, contrasting it with another channel’s earlier satirical song that also poked fun at Erdogan.
Germany’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara last month to hear a protest over that song.
While the German government defended the song as legitimate free speech, it has strongly distanced itself from the poem, volunteering the opinion last week that it was “deliberately offensive.”