Merkel criticized, lauded for allowing comic's prosecution

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2016 9:23 AM
Merkel criticized, lauded for allowing comic's prosecution

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow the possible prosecution of a TV comic for writing an intentionally offensive poem about Turkey's president prompted mixed reactions in Germany on Saturday.

Some commentators praised the move as a vote of confidence in the country's justice system while others accused Merkel of kowtowing to Turkey, whose president had filed a legal complaint against the comic.

In the unusual move, Merkel called a short-notice news conference Friday to personally announce that her government had granted Turkey's request to let prosecutors examine a criminal complaint against the comic for writing an intentionally offensive poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under German law, the government has to grant permission before prosecutors can consider whether to press charges against someone for the crime of insulting a foreign head of state.

"It's not clear what reasons weighed so heavily that she had to take this legally, politically and morally unnecessary as well as disastrous step," wrote Torsten Krauel, chief opinion writer of the center-right German daily Die Welt.

Krauel described Merkel's decision as bow to Erdogan, whose help the chancellor depends on for her plan to reduce the influx of migrants to Europe. Any conviction of comedian Jan Boehmermann would now "carry her political signature," he said, noting that previously Merkel had been known as a strong defender of free speech and for shrugging off public attacks against her in foreign media.

Others praised Merkel's move, arguing that it would highlight the independence of Germany's judicial system.

"Unlike in Russia or Turkey, innocent people don't have to fear the rule of law in this country," wrote Berthold Kohler, a publisher of the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "The Boehmermann case is therefore better left in the hands of independent judges."

The comic himself indicated that he planned to take a break from television for a while.

In a Facebook posting Saturday, Boehmermann said he had received support from "the overwhelming majority of those who aren't President Erdogan."