- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The president of Turkey is asking a German appeals court to ban a controversial obscene poem about him that he says violates the country’s laws about offending foreign heads of state, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Attorneys for Recep Tayyip Erdogan are asking the court to revisit the ruling of a lower court from February that found only some parts of comedian Jan Bohmermann’s poem to have been offensive, THR reported Wednesday.

Mr. Bohmermann’s obscene comedy bit exhibits racism against Turks, Mr. Erdogan alleges, THR reported. For his part, Mr. Bohmermann and his defenders argue it’s perfectly acceptable free speech and that Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies make him all the more an appropriate target for satire.

It is estimated that some 3 million German citizens are of Turkish origin, a significant minority ethnic population in the country.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought in recent years to walk a tight rope between diplomatically courting Mr. Erdogan — a crucial ally in the war against the Islamic State and in alleviating the Syrian refugee crisis — and speaking out against policies he has pursued that have cracked down on freedoms of speech and the press in Turkey.

In April 2016, Mrs. Merkel faced a firestorm of criticism after she permitted prosecutors to explore a criminal case against Mr. Bohmermann, insisting that the rule of law must be upheld and that she should not interfere in decisions rightly left to local prosecutors.

“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Mrs. Merkel said in a press conference at the time, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped their criminal case months later, but German courts have allowed civil litigation to move forward.

Mrs. Merkel’s government has aimed to repeal the “slander” law which ensnared Mr. Bohmermann by Jan. 1, 2018, THR reported.

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