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A new arrest shows you can’t criticize Turkish president Erdogan in Germany

Germany's Angela Merkel and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP / Kayan Ozer
Too close for comfort.
By Christopher Groskopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Bruno Kramm, the leader of the Berlin chapter of Germany’s Pirate Party, was arrested at a rally today for quoting a line from a poem satirizing Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The author of the poem is comedian Jan Boehmermann, who is himself the subject of a criminal complaint from the Turkish government after having read it on German TV.

According to RT, Kramm had organized a protest in front of the Turkish embassy in Berlin that involved a “literary analysis” of Boehmermann’s poem. A video of the event shows Kramm reading from prepared notes when the police suddenly move in and and arrest him (at 0:50).

German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost is reporting that he will be charged under section 103 of the German Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to insult a representative of a foreign government (link in German). That is the same, rarely used legal clause that Turkey cited in its complaint against Boehmermann.

German chancellor Angela Merkel ignited a firestorm of criticism last week when she okayed a criminal prosecution of Boehmermann. Merkel has stressed that allowing a prosecution does not undermine Boehmermann’s presumption of innocence and has also said that she supports repealing section 103. However, many see her support for the prosecution as blatant pandering to Erdogan, whom European leaders are eager to placate in order to assure Turkey’s assistance in stemming a tide of migration.

It remains to be seen how Merkel will react to Kramm’s arrest, but she’s in a tough position with Turkey’s defamation complaints. That’s especially true as the Turkish government’s recent actions “erode human rights and the rule of law in Turkey,” according to Human Rights Watch.

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