A German late night comedian’s joke is causing trouble for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed a legal complaint against Jan Boehmermann, the host of Neo Magazin Royale.
Boehmermann recited a poem on-air that referenced bestiality and noted accusations that Erdogan repressed minorities, Christians, and Kurds.
Erdogan has cited an otherwise obscure German law that prohibits offending international officials. Boehmermann could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.
While the law is rarely used in Germany, Erdogan and his government have been quite active in crushing opposition in Turkey. According to the justice minister last month, Turkish prosecutors have opened almost 2,000 cases of people criticizing Erdogan since he took office in 2014.
Erdogan’s complain is causing headaches for Chancellor Merkel as she tries to balance Erdogan and freedom of speech in Germany. The comedian, who is currently in police protection, says his poem is artistic expression.
Merkel has been crucial in securing Erdogan and the Turkish government as a partner in dealing with the flow of migrants from the Middle East. Merkel is under pressure to please Erdogan as to not risk his partnership.
However, Merkel has attempted to separate these two issues. “Turkey is bearing a very big burden in relation to the Syrian civil war, but all of that is completely separate from Germany’s fundamental values… freedom of the press, opinion and science apply and are completely separate from that,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
54% of Germans opposed any investigation into Boehmermann, while 6% supported one, according to a YouGov poll.