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Merkel Grants Turkish Request to Prosecute German Satirist (bloomberg.com)
218 points by eloisius on Apr 15, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 377 comments

Nobody seems to see how Merkel got this thing very right. 1.) Law says: you may prosecute it. So she "allows prosecution", as she also can't ignore diplomatic implication of doing otherwise. 2.) She also declares that the government will get rid of this law. 3.) She will surely not pressure the justice system in this case... 4.) The case will get dismissed as there is no basis for punishment any more (in Germany, you are entitled to be punished under the lesser harsh law when the law changes, and when the law disappears, there will be no punishment).

I think this was an intelligent move. She complied with Erdogans request and in return says a big "F* Y" by eliminating the law and saving the comedian.

So she "allows prosecution", as she also can't ignore diplomatic implication of doing otherwise.

Sure she can. People snub each other in politics all the time (even when they're joined at the hip). It's called "setting boundaries", and letting people know they can only count on so many indulgences from you. In fact, it is precisely through their willingness to take a stand (even at the cost of temporarily upsetting their allies or coalition partners) that stronger politicians distinguish themselves.

But even if she didn't want to offend his sensibilities -- there are bigger issues at play, such as the fact that Erdoğan is not only acting like a bully in this case (as he normally does at home), but is expecting the German government to do his dirty work for him. And hence, tacitly, to take "his" side in the Great War of Values on openness, and freedom of expression.

That's why Merkel got it wrong. What she needs to do is both act to abolish the law and exercise her discretion in declining to prosecute this case.

Regarding the decision she had to make, Merkel had two choices. If she declined to prosecute then she would be making a quasi-judicial decision in a county where judicial decisions are rightly made by the courts, not politicians. In passing the decision to the courts she is, in my opinion, making a clear statement of German values: this is how we do things - with the rule of law.

Which starkly contrasts with Erdoğan's contempt for the rule of law and anything that gets in his way.

The German constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the case will undoubtedly be dismissed when it reaches the courts.

(And I agree that laws such as this should be abolished.)

The law[0] in question specifically says that the federal government has to authorize the prosecution.

[0] http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/englisch_stg...

Just because the law allows to interfere with the prosecution does not make it morally right to interfere with the prosecution.

(By the way, prosecutors are anyway bound to instruction in Germany (usually by the state governments). That doesn't mean the governments should actually use that power.)

The law does not "allow interference", the law requires someone initiating the prosecution. Just because the law allows this does not make it morally right to initiate it.

An authorization to prosecute is not the same as an initiation. The law requires an initiation by the foreign head of state and an authorization of the German federal government. But that's semantics anyway. You should rather ask yourself, why should this law be treated any differently than all the others? It's written into it but that's the best reason one could find.

Because it allows for personal judgment by the german federal government WITHOUT sidestepping the law.

> The German constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the case will undoubtedly be dismissed when it reaches the courts.

The hurdle for civil suits (libel / slander / plain insults) is much lower in Germany. Flip someone the bird and you're 2000 EUR lighter.

> (And I agree that laws such as this should be abolished.)

Yes; it's anachronistic to persecute this as a crime, but as it stands now, I expect a verdict (most likely minimum sentence and parole). Maybe there's a way out by somehow spinning the matter in a way that makes Boehmermann look like he did not intend to actually broadcast the stuff; i.e. claiming that it was accidentally leaked.

I mean, the main issue is that Germany even had a law allowing someone to be punished for this kind of speech. Merkel can't (or won't) let Erdogan get the chance to point out even the slightest hypocrisy when it comes to enforcing laws. If she gives him an inch by not enforcing this stupid one, he can make a mockery of the west when they say anything about the journalistic and civil rights abuses committed by his administration.

Not that they're doing even close to a good job of that right now.

That law is a relict of the time before WW1 when Germany had an emperor. It just got adapted to the democratic system, so that it covers every head of a state. Everybody just forgot about it and it never got used since decades.

It was used a couple times in recent times: Chomeini, the Pope, and others.

>I mean, the main issue is that Germany even had a law allowing someone to be punished for this kind of speech.

Calling the guy a goat fucker? In the US, with the PC sensitivity, you can go to jail for far less...

> In the US, with the PC sensitivity, you can go to jail for far less...

PC sensitivity has nothing to do with legal rights. This is the country that allows protesting soldier's funerals with "god hates faggots"—one of the least pc actions I've ever witnessed—and only restricts the distance at which the protest can take place.

Also, Obama and Erdogan both fuck goats all day long. This might land me in jail in Turkey, but I'm gonna guess most people reading this post (including Obama, if he didn't have better things to do) would roll their eyes and move on.

There are libel laws that might provide some limited personal protection, but this would be civil court and not criminal court.

Surely I won't be jailed for calling anybody -- even our president -- a goat fucker.

Perhaps we may (regrettably) go down that road someday and perhaps there are instances of police overstepping their bounds to regulate "proper" speech, but I'd be willing to bet* my next pay check that being arrested for calling somebody a goat fucker would not hold up in court.

* - OK, not my whole check but like $5

I'd be willing to bet my annual salary that being arrested for calling a politician a goat fucker would not hold up in a US court.

> Surely I won't be jailed for calling anybody -- even our president -- a goat fucker.

If you called a judge a "goat fucker" in their court room, I suspect you would be in some hot water.

One could argue there's not a huge leap between rules/laws requiring respectful behavior towards judges in a court room and a law requiring respectful behavior towards world leaders...

Edit: Not sure why I'm being downvoted -- I'm not defending the German law, just pointing out that it's not that different from contempt-of-court punishments in the US.

I agree. People in the United States have gone to jail for insulting someone if that someone happens to be a judge, but for some reason everyone is up in arms over a world leader doing the same thing. I think it's ridiculous that I have to sit or stand or call someone "your honor" just because it's a guy wearing a robe that's involved. Any US citizen that thinks what Merkel is doing is wrong should take a second look at their own free speech limitations.

Here's a girl in the United States who had a judge raise her bail just because she said "adios" instead of "bye", and then put her in jail for a month for saying "fuck you": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rrRGhvpEjo

In context of US court it might fail the Miller test


In line with Hustler magazine v Falwell, a reasonable person would not think Barack Obama actually does that.

Now, in an unfortunate turn of events should Cruz become POTUS I don't know if such a statement would be seen differently because I'd believe that he does do that.

Care to share some examples?

I assumed that by "go to jail" you meant actually be convicted. Yes, of course you can get arrested; that doesn't mean it's actually illegal, and we were talking about the laws, not police attitude.

Did you even read the headlines?

One guy spent an extra 2 months in prison. What else could be meant by "go to jail"??

In a courtroom, against the judge; not a particular great example, in my opinion.

Why isn't that a good example? It shows in the United States there are people that can arbitrarily add months to your jail sentence for insulting them, or simply send you to jail if you happen to do it while being in the same room they're in.

> Why isn't that a good example?

Because we allow judges to hand down sentences in order to maintain the decorum of the courtroom.

> It shows in the United States there are people that can arbitrarily add months to your jail sentence for insulting them, or simply send you to jail if you happen to do it while being in the same room they're in.

Not specific people, specific officers of the court who are performing the duties which pertain to being such. You could insult a judge outside of a courtroom all you want and they wouldn't be able to do any more about it than any other private person. Even less, actually, given that the judge is a "public official" under the law and, therefore, the Sullivan "actual malice" standard applies, which makes it substantially more difficult for someone to prove defamation.


None of those are instances of insulting a public figure. The majority of them aren't even convictions but merely arrests.

In the final link, the speaker was even awarded damages for unjust arrest.

I don't have time to open up all those links, but from the sound of it, they seem to be personal defamation cases (or other edge cases like disorderly conduct in a court room; false arrests by idiotic police departments which of course do happen but generally get overturned; etc) and generally against private individuals, not politicians.

OTOH, there's an established body of precedent in the U.S. (which fortunately, not too long ago, wasn't anywhere near as PC as it is now -- far from it, in fact) saying that politicians and big enough celebrities are fair game for non-specific, purely pejorative insults (like "goat fucker"), as long as they don't stray into the territory of making a specific claim of fact (e.g. "I saw the Senator drilling a away at a captive goat behind the shed the other day, and boy, you should have seen the look on his face!")

You'd never go to jail for that here.

technically he didn't call him a goat fucker, he said calling him a goatfucker is illegal. which it is, wether or not the one being accused of being a goatfucker is a leader of a country or not. it's called "beleidigung" and can be prosecuted under http://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/185.html as long as the recipient (or his/her commander in millitary or <supervisor> in the church) goes to the authorities and delclares that it should be prosecuted ("strafantrag"). i go dakor with the (currently) most upvoted post it's smart from mutti (merkel) to "allow" it, because of diplomatic relations, when in fact she doesn't have a word to say in that. she can allow or forbid everything she wants, but as she is part of legislature and executive, ?judicative? can do what they have to and don't give a shit what mutti says

I do not know why this is downvoted. It is correct.

There is a very important context to the 'he called him a goat fucker': The - admittedly very crude - 'poem' he made is embedded in the context of basically explaining what the German law is about, and what you can not say.

There is also another part of history: Erdogan complained about another, earlier satire show on German TV. Boehmermann was referencing this and the earlier attempts of censorship by Erdogan, and basically said 'look, we could call you this, but we didn't, we just clearly expressed our opinions and this is our freedom of expression here in Germany'.

Obviously incorrect, and I struggle to see why you'd even say it. Everyone knows this is wrong.

See examples above.

Calling somebody a "goat fucker" is totally different than almost all of these.

> http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3464628/Woman-35-fac....

This is the closest to this. Except that she posted a phone number which caused the victim to be harassed by a whole lot of other people. She wasn't arrested for calling her names, she was arrested and possibly charged because of this fact alone.

> http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/05/23/a-methuen....

> http://www.businessinsider.com/teen-justin-carter-faces-tria....

> http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/15763074-story

> http://www.wdrb.com/story/30881928/judge-olu-stevens-gives-m....

> http://thefreethoughtproject.com/man-wins-35000-arrested-cal....

All of these others appear to be threatening messages, which, while somewhat controversial, are different animals than a simple name calling/satire post. Some would say it'd be negligent not to investigate and/or charge them with this if said action threatened actually came about.

The other is a comment made to a judge. They were arrested for contempt of court. This is entirely different, because only judges get to make this call in the US. Lots of people probably say similar statements on Facebook about POTUS, I've seen people say it without coming out and saying it but they weren't afraid of the law in this case.

The last case was acquitted, shown to NOT be legally arrested. Kind of disproves your claim, or at least offers contrary evidence.

no, you can't.

PC bullies are nothing more than just that. impotent bullies. they have no power and have no law behind them.

if I want to call someone a goat fucker, be it leader of a country or the guy next door, I can do so without fear of prosecution.

While what I wrote is the contrary to what you say, you are absolutely right, too (so you get an upvote). But Merkel has her very own style of doing stuff, and in the current situation that she maneuvered herself into, her decision made some sense from her point of view.

I personally think heads of state that turn authoritarian should be offended much more often and harder. In this regard, Merkel's decision is absolutely the wrong signal.

> I personally think heads of state that turn authoritarian should be offended much more often and harder

That might be the actual outcome. Erdogan might quite well loose the case which would establish that he's fair game.

Whether or not he loses the case in Germany, Erdogan's getting insulted around the world for being a thin-skinned authoritarian.

Indeed. I also heard he was accused of bestiality and other unsavoury things.

The style argument would have had any merit if she delivered results. She managed to badly mishandle all major crisis I can think of - Euro debt, Ukraine, Migratrion

So you've been to the future and know how her government's decisions play out in the next 10-15 years? Please, tell us more!

So you have been living in an alternate universe, where actions can't reveal themselves to be disastrous or bad in the short- and mid-term?

The idea that we should wait 10 to 15 years to judge foreign policy (or any other) actions is just beyond comment...

No need for elections every 4-5 years either, we should better wait 10-15 years to judge a government/leader, when it's absolutely certain how their laws/actions panned out.

I disagree, I'm sure there are strong politicians who don't make waves, we just don't hear about them. It's sampling bias.

Yes she can but she would look just like Erdogan.

From a technocrat standpoint, Merkel made the smart move.

From a "face"/PR standpoint. She lost big.

By "giving in" to Turkey's insane demand, it sets a precedent for taking future demands seriously. Germany just gave an authoritarian state a seat at the big kids table.

A flat out denial to engage Turkey's unreasonable demand would have highlighted how absurd it was in the public sphere. Instead, we have a bunch of articles highlighting Merkel. Erdogan played her like a fiddle.

If there is legislation on the statute then how can Merkel have it ignored, does she have some sort of absolute authority to contradict the rule of law?

>"In a country under the rule of law, it is not up to the government to decide," Merkel said. //

Which seems exactly right; there's no decision she made other than to not attempt to interfere with the established rule of law - who would allow that to happen??

>Germany just gave an authoritarian state a seat at the big kids table. //

Which seems to be nonsense. Instead Germany allowed someone to bring a private prosecution to court as is the right according to that country's legislation; not doing that would a complete breech of democratic process and the rule of law. Just because someone brings a frivolous prosecution doesn't mean you suddenly tear down the basis for open society and create a sui generis action against them, you let the law work, that's the exact opposite of giving in to authoritarianism. Acting like an authoritarian state to counter authoritarianism would be moronic.

Playing this out as "Erdogan has won against Merkel" seems really ignorant to me. Why are you doing that, don't you believe in the rule of law?

>If there is legislation on the statute then how can Merkel have it ignored

Because Erogadan is not a German Citizen.

>don't you believe in the rule of law

There is no international rule of law between Turkey and Germany.

This is not how it works. First, citizenship is not important in front of a German court barring very few exceptions. Second, there is a law which specifically protects foreign head of states. Third, German courts ruled before in the past this specific provision is part of international law in the German legal system.

You don't need to be a German citizen to be protected by German law (why should you?).

Slander/libel are about the country of the alleged infringement. As with other torts the person allegedly damaged doesn't need to be present otherwise it would be easy to just cross a border to avoid prosecution.

Indeed I didn't realise initially but the German statute includes a law particularly protecting foreign heads of state.

I think you're wrong, because the government interfering with what is primarily a judicial process is exactly how autocracies work, and exactly how democracies do not work, even if in this case the end result is the one we would prefer.

Process matters. A lot.

Now where the government (legislative) has every right to have a say is that this law needs to be removed.

>Process matters. A lot.

Within an established system.

Germany and Turkey have no common justice system or even a common foundation for the rule of law. Erogadan is playing outside the scope of any justice system, and so should Germany, because it holds all the power here.

After all. The only rules to The Great Game, are that those who follow the rules, lose.

This is happening within the German system of government, even if an outsider is bringing the suit. And that is exactly the point.

And what I find so beautiful is that it manages to send both the "rule of law" message and the fk you message at the same time.

International politics is a game of its own, where there are no rules, but actions still have consequences. Looking at it purely under the prism of internal law is simplistic.

Germany and Turkey are both nominatively parliamentary republics. They are also members of the United Nations.

So they both share a common justice system, and a common foundation for the rule of law. Obviously, there are limits to this, but it's a mistake to dismiss these things out of hand.

Exactly. This was a brilliant choice of action. And Merkel is blatantly telling the Turks how different things are handled in the EU. Without giving Erdogan (she needs him) grounds for feeling disrespected.

This is now out of the hands of government and will be settled in court. In an independent court that the government will not mess with.

That she emphasized the freedom of speech, freedeom of press and freedom of art several times in her speech is just the cherry on the cake.

>Exactly. This was a brilliant choice of action. And Merkel is blatantly telling the Turks how different things are handled in the EU.

Well, considering how dictatorial, under-the-table-ish and badly the EU handled the Euro-crisis, I'm not sure that's really true beyond this particular case...

> "says a big "F* Y" by eliminating the law and saving the comedian"

I don't think that this is "saving the comedian", since the law should be eliminated as of 2018. It's likely that judgement (at least at the first level of jurisdiction in case of objection/revision against) will be made sooner. Further who knows what proposed legislation come up since then, or like the Germans say: Since then, a lot of water will flow down the Rhine.

Currently Germany isn't known for its great process against odd repressive laws, I would say it's even the contrary developement when it comes to state authorities, which leaves me sceptic about that.

How is it up to a politician to "allow" a prosecution? Shouldn't that be up to the court?

"Under an obscure paragraph of Germany’s criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government."


That article contains a link with a better explanation of the law: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/14/obscure-german-...

Basically it's a holdover from the monarchy, and there are similar rules across much of europe for the same reason. It seems interesting that these laws hang on despite the massive changes to borders and governments in europe since the 1800's

I’ve read that the underlying assumption here is basically that since such insults potentially damage the relationship between Germany and the foreign state, Germany is an injured party and as such involved in the process.

But it’s also just an ancient law …

There's probably also the case where insulting certain other countries heads of state is just totally fine with the government, so they can ok those cases. ;)

You refer to it as ancient, but I just looked it up, and it seems it was last updated in 2014

How ancient can these laws be? The BRD is not that old.

The core of the laws is much older than the BRD, they were not re-invented from scratch after the war, rather re-established, actually. The penal code goes back to 1871 for Germany as a whole and is based on the earlier Prussian penal code of 1851.

The law itself is the main penal code of Germany and it is of course changed quite often. That specific provision has been unchanged since at least 1953 (though there has been a second subsection added). The original version from 1871 already contained it but worded differently.

and thats why they want to get rid of it


Courts do not prosecute people. They decide cases. The government (that is, the elected part) prosecutes people, at least in many cases. The prosecutor is either appointed by an elected official or elected directly. Therefore it is up to an elected official, either directly or indirectly, to decide whether or not to prosecute a case.

While this may be true in the US, most prosecutors are neither elected nor appointed by elected officials in Germany.

The prosecutors still are bound by instruction of their superiors (which at the end is the minster of justice, usually of that state). Sure, these instructions have bounds, but it can still lead to interference by political officials.

In the United States, criminal prosecution is up the the District Attorney. This is often an elected position. So, yes, it's sometimes up to a politician to decide whether to prosecute.

The thing is, this incident will be heavily used in favor of Erdogan here in Turkey. Next time he publicly suggest prosecutor action against some negative comment against him (in 1 or 2 days, mind you) he'll refer to this. And his supporters won't know the difference if Merkel will also change the law, if the case will get dismissed etc. Erdogan won this case domestically. It might be an intelligent move for her but definitely not for us, sadly.

How would the alternative look like? Erdogan referring to "even in germany, the head of state interferes". Mind you, there'd still be a court case, just under a different paragraph. The whole situation was not salvageable. I don't like the decision, but I can see the reasons. This way at least everybody can point to the independence of the courts.

Eh … I think waiting until 2018 is a bit … hesitant and cowardly? Federal elections are in 2017, so basically she says that the next government will do it. (Ok, it’s extremely unlikely that this next government won’t include her at the helm … but still.)

Also, the case will not necessarily get dismissed. Insults will still be a crime (if one with a lesser punishment), even after the law is abolished.

But I’m happy that abolishing this law is at least on the agenda.

as she also can't ignore diplomatic implication of doing otherwise

Are you seriously suggesting that throwing one of your own citizens under the bus for mean words affecting the fragile feelings of a foreign Head of State is proper and correct diplomacy?

She really didn't get it right. As others have pointed out, § 103 states:

   (2) Ist die Tat öffentlich, in einer Versammlung oder durch Verbreiten von Schriften (§ 11 Abs. 3) begangen, so ist § 200 anzuwenden. Den Antrag auf Bekanntgabe der Verurteilung kann auch der Staatsanwalt stellen.
... which points out that the state can decide whether to prosecute or not. And Merkel is deciding to prosecute, which means that this man, even if the courts are on his side, is going to have no choice but to fight an absurd case for weeks if not months. So much for freedom of thought and expression, at least in this case.

Merkel gets what Merkel wants: free speech is silenced, and she's made an example of this comedian so that other writers, entertainers, journalists, etc, will get the message to keep their ideas about Islamism to themselves. Sure you can say "he'll have his day in court", but it'll take years and millions of dollars (Euros, or whatever). The TV network has already pulled the offending joke off their website. The comedian has had his show cancelled. Anyone else out there thinking about doing something similar has got the message about what happens when you disagree with the government. Yeah, he'll win his freedom in the trial, but "the process is the punishment". No free country tells a comedian that he and his employer are going to be forced to defend themselves in court for... writing a poem.

The good floats with the bad and vice versa.

Politics are regional. Living in Los Angeles with a highly diverse population with both legal/illegal immigration and free speech as its the raison d'etre would be unacceptable to Germany and maybe that is a good thing?

This is a locale that produced entertainment acts like NWA, Snoop Dog The Doors & Sarah Silverman. (Also some really great looking mixed race actors as well) I don't think Germany could do that due to its Homogeny. A region has a choice: Homogeny which produces affluence and social cohesion or diversity that produces great food, music, art, and technology.

Is it a misinterpretation of the article or does the chancellor actually have to "allow" or "disallow" an investigation? Aren't prosecutors completely independent in Germany?

That specific law contains a clause which requires the federal government to give consent before the prosecution could go forward. Think of it that way: The law concerns the foreign relations of Germany which makes the federal government an affected party.

But even apart from that the prosecution is part of the ministries of justice and answers to them (usually to the state level). However, it's really, really rare that they actually interfere with prosecution. I think it's similar in many countries. This case is not one of those by the way, as said above.

Prosecutors aren't independent in Germany. I thnk that's bad, but the idea is actually checks and balances: giving the executive a way to defend against an overreaching judiciary.

Usually it's political suicide for politicians to interfere with prosecutors, there have been spectacular examples of that.

Unfortunately, we've quite recently had a counterexample where the justice minister got under lots of pressure from a shitstorm-moved public and a violent felon walked free (Gustl Mollath).

I know that this is off-topic, but Gustl Mollath did not walk free because of some interference but because he was explicitly ruled not-guilty and was completely rehabilitated by a court. The case then went up to the highest court which confirmed the ruling. He is not a felon in any meaning of that word.

You're misinformed, but that's common.

To the contrary: the court convicted him, but for procedural reasons he walked free.

The lower court's acquittal was appealed (revision) by the defense and the prosecution. Since the prosecution had appealed the sentence could have been more severe (more than "nothing").

The justice minister then ordered the prosecution to withdraw its appeal. That means that the sentence could not be more severe.

The higher court subsequently convicted and sentenced to "nothing", because of this procedural rule.

As an aside: he is a violent felon. He has been legally bindingly convicted of having thrown his wife out of a car while driving. He has been convicted of domestic violence.

As the prosecutor said in his plea: his claim that the well-documented bite marks on her neck were a result of falling out of the car is outlandish.

I did follow the case and I refuse to be called misinformed.

The Landgericht Regensburg discharged him on factual, not procedural, grounds with the verdict from 14.08.2014. Only in the case from 12.8.2001 (the one with bite marks) did they discharge him on legal grounds as they ruled that he didn't fulfill the obligations of § 20 StGB (i.e. he was not convicted because he was might have been insane – which still means not guilty and not a felon, that's how the justice system works).

Could you please cite which legally binding convictions there still are against him? As far as I know they all have been part of the above renewal case and a short search in a legal database seems to confirm that. I also have never heard of an order to withdraw an appeal nor can I find anything. She did order to renew the case, yes, but that is not the same.

Incorrect and incomplete representation. She's starting the removal of §103 (deals with dignitaries) and made it very clear it's only being removed because it's "expendable" i.e. only removed to appease a loud minority and polish image. The removal will take like 2 years and i doubt the "investigation" will take that long.

§185 stays in and Erdogan can (and actually is) still sue Böhmermann using that one.

surely Kafka would disagree with you. being subjected to this ordeal is maltreatment, regardless of what legal wizardry will transpire at the eleventh hour.

> that the government will get rid of this law

germany has a separation of powers and merkel can't dictate any laws.

I think you wanted to write "FUCK YOU". We're all adults here, right?

If I knew how to vote you up I would.

Realpolitik at its finest.

Turkey makes the claim that insulting the head of state is a 'crime against humanity'. Turkey is a corrupt country and is committing 'crimes against humanity' on a daily basis. My username is real name, I live in the US, please come sue me. If you need to be insulted vs just stating facts, the party leadership are doo-doo heads. For anyone not aware, here is LY HRW report on Turkey. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/turke...

> Turkey makes the claim that insulting the head of state is a 'crime against humanity'. Turkey is a corrupt country and is committing 'crimes against humanity' on a daily basis. [...]

All true. But it doesn't stop the oligarchy [1][2] in your country to still keep it in the NATO, have (at least one) military base there (Incirlik Air Base), not say/do anything about the way it treats minorities, journalists ...its own citizens.

(remember the US slogan: "We bring freedom, democracy and human rights to the world")

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/videos/jimmy-carter-u-s...

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

Don't forget turkey had the cojones to provoke the Russians by shooting their plane and then commit a war crime by shooting sry the pilots.

They'be become a rogue nation more than any other.

Yeah... Cojones :-) Or coincidence:

2015-11-23: US air force general and the second-highest ranking military officer visits Turkey "to discuss the Russian airstrikes on Turkmen-populated areas in Syria.


2015-11-24: Two turkish jets shoot down one russian over the Turkmen region in Syria and Turkmen kill the pilot. Putin said that the russian military has communicated flying routes to the US military.


Turkey complains about crimes against humanity? That is rich, they have never acknowledged the Armenian genocide and they are currently bombing the Kurds while having previously helped IS, who are themselves guilty of crimes against humanity.

Their leadership needs a diplomatic spanking.

You'd be remiss to not also point out that there are kurdish groups that blow up bombs with the intent of killing civilians.


He should have a Twitter account, then we'd see some real drama

He does: https://twitter.com/RT_Erdogan

Plus there is: https://twitter.com/trpresidency.

The trpresidency account has blocked me for tweeting the picture of Erdogan next to Smeagol, haven't been blocked from RT_Erdogan...yet.

"In a country under the rule of law, it is not up to the government to decide," Merkel said.

"Mutti" is trying to deflect the blame again: In this very special case (§103 StGB), the law mandates that the government authorize the prosecution. Otherwise there is no case.

Here's the relevant law about deliberate defamation of foreign heads of state. (Up to five years in jail OR a fine.)


Anyone know where the section is on the government required authorization of prosecution?

Section 104a - Conditions for prosecution

Offenses under this chapter shall only be prosecuted if the Federal Republic of Germany maintains diplomatic relations with the other state, reciprocity is guaranteed and was also guaranteed at the time of the offense, a request to prosecute by the foreign government exists, and the Federal Government authorizes the prosecution.

Thanks to both you and germanier.

How can Germany, an ostensibly free nation, have such a law?

If you can't insult political leaders, you don't have free speech. End of story. Political speech is the most important form of speech to protect.

You can actually insult political leaders all day long. Unlike less known persons, which can sue for defamation. There was even a case in Germany where someone argued for the assassination of a Politician, a clear crime, in other words, and acquitted at trial because the target was a public figure.

And even if you couldn't, insults on that level are absolutely unnecessary to discuss any issue.

> You can actually insult political leaders all day long.

Then why is there a prosecution moving forward for insulting a political leader and a specific law which applies only to insulting foreign political leaders?

Because 1) there is a special law against defamation of a foreign nation's representatives and 2) there is no specific exception written into any applicable law, but courts have consistently ruled this way because of freedom of speech etc

It is expected that there will be no punishment in this case.

> How can Germany, an ostensibly free nation, have such a law?

In Austria you be jailed for 6 months for ridiculing religious customs or leaders, or flags and symbols of foreign states...

You can insult political leaders. You can NOT insult FOREIGN political leaders.

I don't see how that makes it any more acceptable. Foreign political leaders are still public figures who clearly have an influence on the direction of public policy in your nation.

I don't see how a lot of things are acceptable. This is law. I choose not to have an opinion on it.

Not having an opinion about a matter is explicit support for the status quo.

§ 104a StGB

Article 103 appears to state that the insulted party must have been in Germany on official duty during the occurance of the insult.

It needs to be parsed like this

Whosoever insults [a foreign head of state], or, [with respect to his position, a member of a foreign government who is in Germany in his official capacity], or [a head of a foreign diplomatic mission who is accredited in the Federal territory] shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine, in case of a slanderous insult to imprisonment from three months to five years.

I don't suppose it say how big the fine must be? Could they fine the comedian 1 Deutschmark? That would make a pretty clear point that the Court wasn't impressed with the entire process...

Well the fine would be in Euro ;) Apart from the usual rules there is nothing specific about the fine in that law, no. They would need to fine him at least five days worth of income if I haven't missed something.

But a symbolic fine is really unlikely. Much more important than the amount fined is the label "guilty" or "not guilty". I can't see how they would rule him guilty but resort to a token fine in that case. If the court thinks the law should not be applied, they will find a reason not to.

I just quoted the entire provision (where the wording and length is absolutely standard for a German criminal law). There are no boxes which when ticked would result in an automatic conviction. The courts have a great degree of freedom to decide their cases. (Usually they base it on older decisions by higher courts which usually spell out what criteria should be used to interpret a law.)

Whoops! That's embarrassing, sorry about that...

I'm very interested in how this plays out.

Heads of state or members of the government on official duty. Since Erdogan is a head of state the requirement does not apply.

The government may have the right to stop a complaint regarding this law, but that doesn't mean that there is no moral obligation for the government to not stand in the way of law.

She's not deflecting blame. For one thing, it's not Merkel that made the decision. Secondly, the blame would have been less if the government stopped the complaint. That would have been the easy way out.

It is clearly Merkel who made the decision. The law requires approval at that level, she is the one who announced the decision, the buck stops with her.

This is really terrible news for Germany and the EU as a whole. Merkel has said "this is a bad law and we have the option to ignore it, but we will prosecute anyway". Who rules Germany now, exactly? Is it Merkel or is it Erdogan? And if it's the latter, which is what it looks like, then how much influence does Turkey have over the EU as a whole?

You obsess over singular persons having power to do something. But in reality, Merkel is not at all free to decide this issue. For that matter, the government as a whole is not free to decide this issue, regardless where "the buck" stops.

Nor is Erdogan calling any shots, because he is only using an option that German law provides to any organ of a foreign state. To any Human Being actually, considering that there are cases of personal defamation pending.

Nothing special about Erdogan, except that he is exerting that option rather spectacularly to his own detriment.

The sad thing about this issue is that obviously a lot of people don't bother to appreciate the complexity of the issue and want to frame it as a question of who is in power and who is calling the shots.

If you don't want to be ruled by dictators, start recognizing law and institutions at work, rather than attributing everything that happens to the power and will of singular persons.

I would point out that the German government explicitly is free to decide whether or not prosecution continues. I don't think it's a good idea that this is the case, but it is.

Most people seem to focus on the political side of this whole affair, but at the same time it is clearly a legal case as well (and a rather interesting one) with hundreds of pending legal complaints

^^^^^ This. This should be restated at the root level so everyone could see it.

> but that doesn't mean that there is no moral obligation for the government to not stand in the way of law.

My eyes keep glazing over... can you reword without the triple negative?

I tried without "triple negation". Doesn't work as well. There is a moral obligation for the government to honor that law, but that in turn doesn't mean they have to give permission or that they don't have permission. Yes, the issue is that complicated.

StGB §104a explicitly states that the German Federal Government has to consent to any prosecution under StGB §103 (the "libel against foreign head of state" paragraph of the law). §103/104 is very special in that regard.

So yes, the government had to give explicit permission to prosecute in this particular case.

The gov't could have honored the law by just saying "we don't consent to the prosecution", they did not however, and Merkel as the head of the government has the responsibility for that decision; whether you agree with the decision to prosecute or not.

PS: German media is reporting that according to Steinmeier, German Foreign Secretary, the cabinet had a tie when voting on prosecution or not, with Merkel's vote breaking the tie in favor or prosecution.

The government has a moral obligation to consider the request and saying "we don't consent" does not satisfy the obligation.

Another important consideration is that exercising the right to deny the prosecution would have taken away power from the judiciary. Germany is in the process of making this point to Poland and Hungary, where the independence of the judiciary is under attack. A denial would have weakened that argument a lot.

Just no. The laws/paragraphs in question are special in that they explicitly state the German government has to allow the any prosecution under that law/paragraph.

Of course the gov't has a moral and also legal obligation to consider the request, consideration does not imply they have to follow the request.

If the government made a new law requiring gov't consent before prosecutions or if they tried to hinder a prosecution under any existing law not having such a "government must consent" paragraph, then you might have a point; here however, you do not.

No sinister men with long coats and barking dogs at three o'clock in the morning, but the screws are being tightened on free expression over much of Western Europe these days, not least as concerns potential offense towards a certain easily offended religion.

[edit: typo]

In the Netherlands if you tweet something that is perceived as inflammatory you will get a police visit:


Note that this is not the same as hate speech which will lend you in court and get you fined or worst.

Well... it might depend on the message the police deliver. If they're saying, "Look, some of these people react violently when you say stuff like this, and we can't always stop them, so if you're going to keep doing it, you'd better think about your physical security", that's perfectly reasonable.

If they're saying, "This is a polite, non-official notice that if you keep saying stuff like this, you are going to face unofficial heat from the government, in ways that you can't prove is because you're saying this stuff", well, that's not appropriate for a free society.

Thought crime at its best.

Agreed. Intimidation. But hey, we're the country that sends a arrest-squad in the middle of the night to cartoonists and detain them. NOT kidding: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorius_Nekschot

Similar things are happening in Sweden. Dan Park is a Swedish street artist who has actually done jailtime for his works, some of which have also, by order of the court, been destroyed. Both Dan and his gallerist have been subject to nightly police raids.

Lars Vilks is another Swedish artist. He is not being hunted by a police force, but by private, less rulebound actors. He can no longer live on a fixed address, and travels under constant police protection.

What a glorious time for free speech.

I’m not sure whether that is actually true …

Insults were always a crime in Germany. They are even more or less explicitly mentioned (“honor” is mentioned) as an exception in the freedom of speech article in the German constitution. (One interesting tidbit: there are no such explicit exceptions for art, i.e. art is allowed to do everything. Of course that is not totally true. As soon as two or more basic rights collide judges have to decide which one wins out and how different basic rights have to be balanced. Law is not an algorithm, it is a living, breathing thing with a certain spirit, filled with life by the people living with it, applying it and interpreting it.)

This particular law merely names a higher punishment – and requires the German government to allow prosecution.

If you think you have been insulted you always have to make a criminal complaint. Without a criminal complaint there is no prosecution (unlike with, say, a robbery, where it doesn’t matter whether you make a criminal complaint, the robbers can be convicted either way). That applies to everyone.

Erdogan actually made a criminal complaint (one that doesn’t require the permission of the German government to go ahead), too, as well as this criminal complaint that does require the government’s permission. So there would have been some prosecution and maybe even a court case either way the German government had decided, just with a potentially slightly lower punishment.

I think it will be interesting to see how this case turns out … but I would be wary of identifying any trend. In general I would argue that the German constitutional court has again and again emphasized the importance of freedom of speech as a constituent element of democracies and has also, over the years, given the right wider and wider latitude and more teeth, meaning not everything that might, at first blush, sound like an insult actually is an insult. But the exception exists, sure, and always has.

There is also no doubt that what the comic said is insulting content. It was explicitly named as such and that’s pretty uncontroversial … the constitutionally much more interesting question is whether the context in which the insults were packaged is enough to restore the freedom of speech. I personally think it should be and I hope that judges will decide that way … but it’s a honestly tricky question.

I mean, one thing is for sure: Simple disclaimers (“Saying the following would be illegal: …”) are not enough. The law is not stupid … but we are not talking about simple disclaimers here.

You can dress it up with all the sophistry you want, but this pig still stinks: a man's freedom is being taken away for mocking a politician.

This is just unjustifiable. Even worse, it's being done because Merkel needs favors from Erdogan. Imagine if George W. Bush had demanded that Merkel bring prosecutions for some of the more outrageous things people said about him. Would you have been okay with that?

German political discourse and American political discourse happen on a very different level. The amount of name calling happening in the US is unheard of in Germany.

Not even the indemnity afforded to members of parliament speaking parliament covers libellous insults - it's the only exception.

If it is unjustifiable, it will go to the german high court and will be judged unconstitutional. Merkel does not need favours from Erdogan, Merkel needs to stand strong within her country (not that I am happy about that). She has said previously that she thinks it is an insult. If she had now reversed that thinking because of political thinking, that could have been far worse for her. And also for the turkish opposition since hindering the prosecution would have been best that can happen for turkish nationalists.

>She has said previously that she thinks it is an insult. If she had now reversed that thinking because of political thinking, that could have been far worse for her. And also for the turkish opposition since hindering the prosecution would have been best that can happen for turkish nationalists.

So what you're saying is: "It's okay to throw someone in jail for mocking a politician if it benefits you politically."

It is pretty impressive though, that you're able to make it sound so nice and harmless.

No one’s freedom is being taken away as of yet?

The government is acting toward that end. Being stopped by the courts doesn't make that any less immoral.

> Law is not an algorithm

Hopefully one day the laws will be coded in PROLOG and open sourced. Then we can use computers to reason and decide about it.

> This particular law merely names a higher punishment – and requires the German government to allow prosecution.

That's things getting worse.

It's not a new law, and in response to this incident Merkel has said she wants to get rid of this law, so how is it getting worse?

The right to grant a federal pardon lies in the office of the President of Germany, but he or she can transfer this power to other persons, such as the chancellor or the minister of justice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardon#Germany

Pardons are a vital check on the justice system. I don't know all the details, and this might be a lower level judgment. But, if she had the power and said no, then that's a terrible sign regardless of the words out of her mouth. On the other hand if the government gave up the right to pardon that's also terrible.

Pardons require that there be a court decision first. The point of a pardon is to decide that someone has somehow paid their debt to society, but you can't reasonably make such a decision without first having a decision whether or not a crime occurred, and if so, what the legal punishment should be.

If these people are convicted, then it might be reasonable for her to pardon them after the facts have been documented by the court.

In this case it is not about a pardon, but about an archaic law that requires consent from the government before prosecution, allowing the government to prevent someone from having their case heard based on political considerations.

Not in the US, you can be pardoned before trial. Germany might be different, but it's a common setup, and the law requires the government to say OK.

EX: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardon_of_Richard_Nixon

This has absolutely nothing to do with a pardon (which would happen after a verdict anyway). For this particular law the prosecution needs the approval of the federal government to go forward. That is all that happened.

And the government said Yep, go ahead. At which point he suffers even if not convicted.

Remember, right now today he is being penalized for saying something people in power did not want said. That's a bad thing.

Nobody is being penalized or suffering right now. He has great support and this decision didn't change anything.

Merkel even specifically said that they want to abolish that law. They didn't decide based on the merit of the claim but only based on principle (no matter what that law says, independent courts should decide).

Clearly, going in front of judge to plead your case is a day in the park free from any downsides what so ever!

Wait no, that's not true at all. Being forced to go to a trial is being deprived of your liberty while your there. Even just waiting for that day is highly stressful.

The prosecution could still decide to throw the case out if they don't think it has any merit. Just the same as with any other law where the government isn't even asked for their opinion.

He would have been prosecuted anyway. If the government hadn't greenlight it under that law it would run under the label of the general insult law.

In practice this decision shouldn't have changed anything for him. It just sent a message: "In Germany the courts are independent. We won't interfere, even if we could."

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

This is someone not taking a stand for justice when they could. They had the power and option to make the right choice and they chose the politically expedient one.

This is worse than "I was only following orders" this is actively choosing the wrong thing.

This rather depends on whether you believe that allowing the independent judicial system to decide whether satirists get a day in court they more or less literally asked for (whilst announcing you intend to abolish the law and the criminal penalties associated with it anyway) is really "the triumph of evil". I think that argument's quite hard to sustain.

There's even an argument that in this instance the less just course of action might be a powerful politician stepping into thwart the usual judicial process and signalling to the wider world that Western democrats, like Turkish autocrats, don't see anything wrong with subordinating the judiciary to executive fiat when a particular case allows them to step in.

Are you seriously suggesting that the other option is to send them to prison without a trial?

The judiciary's role is to follow the rules as written, this is balanced by those who write the laws on one end, and those who can issue pardons when things go off the rails. Independent Judiciary means their outcomes are not changed behind the scenes, a public pardon has nothing to do with this.

No, I haven't suggested that at all.

I've suggested that it's rather hard to sustain the argument that a prosecutor and jury trial represents a "less just" way of deciding something than a political leader intervening to tell the judiciary she will be making the decision for them in this instance. Especially when reporting suggests that rescinding the bill via the accepted constitutional process for legislative change as she's said she intended to do would make it impossible for a sentence to be carried out in the unlikely event of a court deciding to convict anyway.

Similarly, I don't think it's possible to argue that the decision of whether to prosecute or not resting with the head of state is compatible with the concept of an independent judiciary (whether the outcome is changed behind the scenes or publicly is a tangential point)

To be clear, she's declined to use a special executive privilege written into this archaic bad law to give the state power to intervene if it's in their foreign policy interest, not a pardoning system introduced as a constitutional check and balance. I'm sure the German legal system has been designed with plenty of actual checks and balances.

Get your day in court imply's it's a privilege. Needing to defend such a basic form of free speech vs. a high ranking politician is a sign of a broken system.

Nobody gets a free pass for failing to support a basic human right. People should be demanding she steps down right fucking now.

If read the wider coverage, it's strongly implied that the comedian in question did it deliberately to challenge the limits of the law in question, so I don't think it's the case that he'd be dreadfully upset if he ended up challenging it in court.

Ironically, he's apparently far more likely to be successfully prosecuted under Germany's regular defamation law which Merkel has no power to intervene in whatsoever. Although judging from the tone of your previous comments I suppose you'll still find a way for that to be Merkel's fault...

Actually, laws against defamation and insults are very old. And this particular incident falls clearly under the category of pure insults. Even with a strong taste of racial slur ("goat ...").

The only reasons we are debating this at all is that nobody likes Erdogan and that the insult was offered by a comedian.

> The only reasons we are debating this at all is that nobody likes Erdogan and that the insult was offered by a comedian.

We're debating it because most of HN is in the United States, where people regularly go around saying far worse things about our President than calling him a "goat."

If this was in the US this would be considered Satire. So it's a form of protected speech. Am I correct? Could someone still sue for libel?

Yes. A judge would almost certainly throw this case out if it were in the US.

It's satire, about a political public figure. It's hard to find speech much more protected than that.

Europe does not have free speech. In myriad ways there are restrictions on speech, from prosecution of satire to the reprehensible "Right to be Forgotten" law.

> Europe does not have free speech.

Nonsense. Of course it does. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_10_of_the_European_Con... . Eg see [0] for a (successful) ECtHR case in France under A.10 relating to a similar no-insulting-heads-of-state law.

My guess it the only reason this one is still on the books is that it's almost never enforced (though IANAL). The ECHR doesn't examine laws proactively - someone has to bring a case - but then, that's the same as the US (and in the US it's apparently not unusual for legislators to attempt to pass laws they know will be overturned once actually used[1]...)

> In myriad ways there are restrictions on speech

Sure. Same as in the US: [2]. The restrictions in that article seem broadly in the same areas as those in A.10(2).

I'm not denying that US free speech protection is stronger than Europe - lines are drawn in a slightly different place: the US has stronger protection of free speech, Europe has stronger protection of privacy, among other things. But this is a long way from "Europe does not have free speech".

[0] https://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/2315/en/col...

[1] http://www.mediaite.com/online/tennessee-gov-vetoes-nakedly-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exce...

>It's satire, about a political public figure. It's hard to find speech much more protected than that.

Well, to be pedantic, courts would probably apply more protections to direct political criticism than to mockery of a political figure him/herself. That is, you would receive more protection for: a) "This is a stupid policy that will harm public welfare" than b) "politician X looks like a monkey". But it's close.

To be really pedantic, there are two layers of protection. Political criticism is itself protected, but so is criticism of public figures (regardless of whether that criticism is political or they are even political figures). Politicians are simultaneously public figures and subject to political criticism.

Restriction on what search results Google can show ARE restrictions on speech. Google is being impeded from speaking in such cases, and those searching are being impeded from hearing.

Right to be forgotten laws are restrictions on Google search results.

O wouldn't put that in the same category as speech restrictions....

In the US standards for libel against a public figure are pretty high. You can basically say whatever you want about a politician.

Unless the poem leaves anyone anyone with a reasonable expectation Erdogan might actually be a goat, I don't see how it could be libel. I think too that one would have to show that being a goat is a bad thing, which would certainly be an entertaining trial.

I am not a lawyer though, so take my post for what it's worth.

Proving libel in the US...

First, there is the case where we're talking (writing actually) about a person who is not reasonably considered a public figure--just a normal person. In this case the person would have to demonstrate that we wrote something about them that:

1. Caused actual damages to them (e.g. Caused them to lose a job, have their house burned down by an angry mob, etc.) 2. Was false

Writing that Joe Bob embezzles money while high on cocaine might result in him getting fired. Perfectly fine thing to write, assuming it's true. But libel if false and it loses him his job.

Justin Beiber and President Obama, on the other hand have both reasonably sought the limelight and would be considered public figures. For them to win a libel case, they would need to pass another hurdle and prove that what we wrote had malicious intent (i.e. that we expected damages to result from our false, damaging written statements).

To prove the third part is almost impossible. Public figures pretty much never expect to win libel cases.

At least, this is what I learned as an undergrad in a journalism law course.

You don't need to prove actual damages in cases of defamation per se --- there are types of false statements that are presumed to be damaging, such as falsely accusing someone of having committed a crime or of dishonest business dealing.

But, the statement does need to be such that that a reasonable person might believe it to be true.

There is a pretty strong exception for well known personalities

Edit this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_figure

Yeah, it's not like he made a crappy video and got thrown in jail for it.

Libel is printed, slander is spoken.

I think you may have missed the "..." there. He didn't call him a goat, more like one who lays with goats.

I've seen days of coverage on whether Obama is a 'secret muslim terrorist'

I've seen people call Obama a monkey, the anti christ, dumbass, marxist, etc.

That was on national TV

Freedom of speech is core to the American political system, tbh I am quite surprised and disappointed to find out Germany is so regressive on speech.

A mayor of a U.S. town was on the White House lawn handing out leaflets calling Obama a "magic mulatto."

Maybe you should wait and see whether these guys actually gets convicted before pronouncing Germany regressive on speech. Plenty of people make complaints over ridiculous things in the US too - what matters is what the result is.

And if Obama himself made actions to allow such a lawsuit to move forward, it would be seen countrywide as an egregious move against free speech.

For Merkel to personally get involved and say that the guy should be prosecuted is a hit against freedom of speech in germany, regardless of the outcome.

Merkels actions in this case are percepted very critically around here (at least in my filter bubble). I think it is quite open how this will play out for her. The public TV, where the accused has his work place, although independent formally, is force-financed by the public and widely seen as prey of the ruling parties (mainly SPD and CDU, who form the government now). It is quite possible that the ensuing discussing will scar the public TV as well and Merkel in the cross-fire.

Imagine if Obama took actions to interfere with the judicial process to deny prosecution in response to someone wanting to pursue a claim under a law that was on the books?

In this case Merkel was dealt bad cards: A law that should have been removed a long time ago puts the issue on her table. If she had opted to deny consent, it would have been a blow to the principles of separation of powers, the very thing many European governments - including Germany - are criticizing Poland, Hungary and Turkey for violating right now. It would have made her a total hypocrite.

So she has opted to stay out, and taken the opportunity to raise the issue of removing this paragraph.

Hmmm... Defend human rights and look like a hypocrite, or allow human rights to be abused and look like not a hypocrite?

I wouldnt have come to the same conclusion as Merkel.

She only allowed him to be trialled; if the law goes against human rights, it's the court's job to sort it out.

It's not just insults from the right to the left: it goes both ways. I remember people calling George W. Bush a smirking chimp. I remember people like Andrew Sullivan trying to prove that Sarah Palin only pretended that her son Trig is hers. I remember MoveOn.org's ad calling General Petraeus 'General Betray US.'

And that's exactly as it should be. Free citizens of a free nation have every right to insult anyone they wish.

Agreed, i didnt mean to imply it was onesided, just using the current president as an example

I doubt it. Goats have standards and we are talking about Erdogan. The only way the act would have occurred is if the animal was deceased.

Anyway - Cameron was accused seriously to have received oral sex by the vehicle of a roasted pig just a month ago - and he did the unthinkable - shrug it off. No one was prosecuted in Germany. and i am sure their tabloids reported it.

As much as I despise Cameron, he's smart enough - or has smart enough advisors - to realise that having the claims in question discussed at length in court would have kept it in the news far longer.

It of course helped that most people - including those of us who very much would have loved for it to blow up much more than it did - realised that Lord Ashcroft very much had an axe to grind.

These are completely different cases. Cameron acted wisely, Erdogan acted stupidly.

Cameron was "insulted" by a whole slew of people that way, considering all the attention the topic got. Erdogan has a single target to go after, legally speaking. And the applicable laws in both cases differ substantially, too.

He actually said that an example of an insult that is unlawful is to say that Erdogan lies with goats.

The US values freedom of expression over defamation and even over the safety of minorities from consequences of hate speech.

The deliberation between these freedoms is a matter of the political culture of a society. In Germany the opinion is shifting, and maybe not for the better.

It is more subtle that this. The whole poem should not be viewed without the moderation and context of the show. The pivot point is the extra-3 song, a satirical song about erdogans narcissistic tendencies by another german comedy TV-show. This song was the reason the german ambassador in turkey was summoned by the turkish governemnt.

Böhmermanns reaction was... and I am paraphrasing here: "What? You think this was insulting??? Mr. Erdogan, I can show you what an insult looks like, and german courts would regard it as insult:" (... and on this point in the show comes the poem...)

So... was the poem insulting, disgraceful and racist? Sure, in my oponion yes. But you can't look at it without the context, the whole show was trying to make.

Yes, the entire point of the poem was to show the differences between the satire the extra-3 song used to criticize Erdogan on his free speech and refugree policies from what would be really just slurs and racism, by Böhmermann explicitly stating that.

It is like comparing Trevor Noah stating on the Daily Show that "of course we all know, Mexicans are racists and we need a wall" vs Trump saying the same thing. The first is comparable to what Böhmerman did (attacking racists, while simultaneously attacking Erdogan on free speech issues re:extra-3), while the later is actually racist slurs. Context matters.

What of it? I'm not sure how this 'context', namely the lead-in for the joke, changes anything.

It is in the same tradition of Charlie Hebdo, Titanic, Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K. and other crass comedians.

Some might find this humor tasteless and insulting, but in my opinion this is covered by freedom of speech.

> Actually, laws against ... insults are very old.

So are laws against blasphemy, witchcraft, etc. That doesn't make them at all legitimate in the modern world.

Which is why they are being changed. Though I still see no value in allowing people to call other people "goat f*rs" for sake of a political argument.

Fortunately, Western countries don't regulate speech based on what the majority of people at a given time find valuable.

If they did, probably every civil rights movement in the West could have been made illegal simply by the government declaring that the speech is not valuable. Fuck that.

The value is you can say what you think without having to run it by a lawyer.

goat fuckers. see how it works? you can swear with out pretending to

> Which is why they are being changed.

Then why cite the age of a law like them as evidence of the law's legitimacy?

> Though I still see no value in allowing people to call other people "goat f*rs" for sake of a political argument.

That places you in the very dangerous position of deciding what's a valid political argument and what isn't.

The important thing here is not that the law is legitimate, but rather that it is from an era when manners and respect where more important than extremer notions of free speech.

It hasn't been a problem, because normally, nations which have the respect of the German state to require such prosecution know better than to use it. On the other hand, accusing foreign heads of states of fucking goat on public television isn't exactly something people expected.

Erdogan has ensured that the oppression of his media will stay in European media for months.

It wasn't evidence of the law's legitimacy, it was to counter the hand wringing of the parent comment:

>the screws are being tightened on free expression over much of Western Europe these days, not least as concerns potential offense towards a certain easily offended religion

beyseian horse didn't cite old laws like them, you did.

Are you sure?

> bayesian_horse: Actually, laws against defamation and insults are very old.

> ceejayoz: So are other laws. So what? [paraphrased]

Yes, I'm sure.


> ceejayoz 3 hours ago | [-]

> So are laws against blasphemy, witchcraft, etc.

It was clearly political speech. He was protesting about what someone took as an insult.

~"That's not an insult, this is an insult: &@##$ @#$@#$."

He said, "&@##$ @#$@#$"! Burn him!

When in context the actual insult was said before then.

> Actually, laws against defamation and insults are very old. And this particular incident falls clearly under the category of pure insults.

In France insults are usually allowed when it's a parodic context (such as in a play, a TV show, a movie or the like).

Yes. This is a big problem here in the Netherlands. Traditionally we have been a very open society but more recently people have become unable to speak their minds about religious matters that affect society.

Are they really unable to speak their minds or are they simply unwilling to face harsh criticism of their opinions and beliefs?

Freedom of speech doesn't mean other people are not allowed to criticize you. And if your opinions are intentionally offending other people, you just have to expect some intentional offenses in return...

The problem is that offense is not (in itself) an argument, nor a counterargument


Of course, intentional insults devoid of content are merely https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem, but it is important to recognize the difference.

Discussing something rationally requires having a thick skin.

You are allowed, to say "Islam" you know – but I know that people with the views you are hinting at have a bit of a habit of not doing so, in what I'd perceive as a rather flaccid attempt to demonstrate how their freedom of speech is being repressed.

Screws are not being tightened on freedom of expression on any real sense. The German law in question has nothing to do with religious insult, and ECHR Article 10 explicitly protects freedom of expression.

More importantly, it is not the place of the Chancellor to decide whether or not the law has been violated. That's the last thing that we want.

Shouldn't we wait until the court makes a decision. Until now it is only a good way to show Erdogan what separation of powers means.

Wait...why is religion coming into this? How does Erdogan represent Islam?

Because those who frequent sites outside the SWPL universe see this sort of thing (http://bit.ly/1MVlVUE) with demoralizing frequency. This comedians plight has captured some attention, but it's really the exception.

And people who aren't overly inclined to take the editorial stance of blogs that actually cover Gamergate as a serious ethical movement too seriously realise that [West] Germany hasn't allowed those considered to be expressing far right views anything resembling freedom of speech since 1945 for not-exactly-inexplicable reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with some sort of left-wing conspiracy to make people not hate Muslims. It's a country where you're not allowed to collect war memorabilia, never mind write blog comments saying "off to Auschwitz with you".

The original Bloomberg article has Merkel saying she had no intention of interfering in a prosecution brought under an ancient law about insulting heads of states, but actually intended to scrap the law so it couldn't be used in future. Which apart from suggesting that German speech laws are getting more permissive rather than less is pretty much an endorsement of the view that Erdogan - and presumably other Muslim heads of state - is a perfectly legitimate target for satire

"Turkey’s Erdoğan says his only concern is Islam" http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-erdogan-says-his-on...

So can I claim I'm the representative of Islam and everyone's supposed to believe me?

no, those are old laws.

mind you, you also get in a lot of trouble for promoting nazism ("wiederbetätigung"). see here, austria, 5 convictions for up to 22 months: http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/oesterreich/4947913/Funf-...


Which certain easily offended religion is this?

Why don't you publicly insult them all and find out?

For science, of course.

"Fng goats" is not an insult against Muslims, but rather something that offends a lot of people from goat-rich countries around the mediterranean, even Greece.

Jeeebus... here I was, thinking that goat-fucker is pretty much a generic insult at the schoolyard level and that any adult[1] being called a goat-fucker would probably just laugh it off and get on with their day.

[1] Or semi-clueful child for that matter.

EDIT: I should say, my point is: Given that the actual number of people who fuck goats is miniscule, but probably not zero, the "accusation" is a priori so laughable as to NOT constitute defamation in any reasonable sense. (Hopefully the courts will agree, but it's ridiculous that the prosecution is even allowed to go forward.)

Calling people from that region "goat fuckers" unfortunately has a long history. It's not a generic insult and the use was obviously deliberate. (Of course that was the whole point of that poem.)

OK, so what does it mean? (Semantically) I have a hard time believing that it actually literally means what it says.

How is it different from a generic insult?

Is it akin to calling black people monkeys? (As obviously ludicrous as that is.)

Not from that region but it's probably similar to calling someone a "redneck" which is to say someone that's akin to a country bumpkin. I do think that at some point in history, and even today, it was probably common to fuck goats in some parts of the world on account of that being what was available. I remember watching a Vice video about some parts of Central/South America where it was very normal for adolescent boys to have a "chicken" that they pleasure themselves with. I'll let you google that one yourself.

Does anyone actually get offended at being called a "redneck"? (I'm not from that neck of the woods, so I have to ask.)

(Btw, according to QI the statistic for, uhm, "having sex" with a chicken in Iowa/USA was actually something like 1 in 6.)

the "accusation" is a priori so laughable as to NOT constitute defamation in any reasonable sense. (Hopefully the courts will agree

From what I can tell, he's not being charged under defamation law, so I don't think that's very relevant. It's an old law that criminalizes "insulting a foreign head of state".

> "Fng goats"

Let's not mince words here: it's fucking goats (or Ziegen ficken originally).

It's an insult people from Greece or Turkey hear a lot more often, and many of them seem to perceive it as a racial slur.

Just like you wouldn't be offended by racial slurs not referring to your particular race.

Ah, ok, so it's akin to a racial slur. Thanks for that explanation -- it makes a little more sense now.

> Just like you wouldn't be offended by racial slurs not referring to your particular race.

Personally, I'm not offended by racial slurs referring to my race, but then I was born lucky (white, male), so I probably don't appreciate what it's like to be a minority...

... but is Erdogan from a minority?

(I must confess I know very little about Erdogan, but most of the media I read portray him as just a few inches short of a megalomaniacal dictator.)

EDIT: I find it interesting to contemplate Erdogan's reaction to this compared to the (hypothetical) way, say, Obama would have reacted to this. (Not a US-ian, just for the record.)

Erdogan isn't a minority in his country. And we don't care if he is offended or not. However, there are millions of Turks in Germany, and we should care if they feel offended.


...and yet this law has nothing to do with religion, but is about "insulting national leaders".

Most people think it's dumb, but don't misrepresent it.

I am not usually a Merkel fan, but I think this is a brilliant move, as it sends two loud and clear messages:

1. We are a country of laws, not of autocratic presidents. Therefore it is the task of the judiciary, and only the judiciary to decide this matter. I have full confidence in the judiciary to do so and to come to the right conclusion.

2. And I have a pretty clear idea of what the right conclusion is: what the Turkish president demands is ridiculous. In fact, the fact that we have a law that allows him to demand this is ridiculous. We are therefore getting rid of the law.

Not allowing the prosecution to go ahead would have sent the message that autocratic decisions by the executive in judicial matters is the correct way to proceed, regardless of which way the decision goes. It also wouldn't have sent as clear a message as to the ridiculousness of the request as getting rid of the law.

Again, not usually a fan, but this is damn good.

> Not allowing the prosecution to go ahead would have sent the message that autocratic decisions by the executive in judicial matters is the correct way to proceed

As many others have pointed out, the relevant law [0] explicitly requires an autocratic decision by the executive before prosecution can start.

So in this situation, you are a country of laws being mediated by an autocratic president. It is the task of an autocratic president, and possibly the judiciary, to decide this matter.

[0] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/14/obscure-german-...

>As many others have pointed out, the relevant law [0] explicitly requires an autocratic decision by the executive before prosecution can start.

Exactly. This is why the law is an anachronism and needs to be repealed. And why using it to get the "right" outcome would be inconsistent with the principle of rule of law that says it needs to be gotten rid of.

It's like ssh-ing into the production server.

>In a state of law, it’s not the domain of the government, but rather the prosecutors and the courts, to weigh individual rights,

IMHO that's all that needs to be said. This is exactly how it should be. This is a problem for which laws were written and this is something the judges should eventually have the power to decide upon.

If we don't like their decision, it's up to us to change the laws.

I disagree: in a free state composed of free citizens, it is every citizen's duty to refuse to do something which he believes wrong: a law can only be enforced because the police arrested someone, the gaolers incarcerated him, the jury convicted him, the judge sentenced him, the warden took responsibility for him (and the executioner killed him, in the case of capital crimes). Every one of these has the opportunity and the duty to refuse to enforce an unjust law: the police officer can turn a blind eye; the gaolers can refuse to accept the prisoner; the jury can refuse to convict; the judge can refuse to sentence; the warden can release; the executioner can refuse to work.

You are basically arguing for vigilante justice. There's a myriad of reasons why this is a bad thing for society. For example, white supremacy groups not being arrested or charged with crimes because all the cops and DAs and judges are also white supremacists. If it's truly within their world-view that a lynching is not wrong, then according to your theory it's their responsibility to not arrest or charge for it. This viewpoint is directly opposed to the rule of law.

zeveb is arguing for nonviolent civil disobedience, which is a very far cry from vigilante justice. Some of our greatest civil rights heroes are advocates for civil disobedience, including Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Mohandas Gandhi, and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Yes, vigilante justice is probably a step too far, but only because it's definition requires a lack of rule of law to start with. zeveb is basically arguing that the morality of the individual citizens at each step of the chain overrides the rule of law. The basic premise is the same between them: A vigilante applies their own morality extra-judiciously, without regard for the rule of law. It's the positive counterpart (applying law) of the negative (nullifying law) that zeveb is arguing for.

Civil disobedience is also not correct. Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey laws, not the refusal to uphold them. People participating in civil disobedience do it with the understanding that they can (and should) be prosecuted for such. They do so to act as martyrs.

I have to apologize for the extreme and apocryphal example, but I honestly can't think of a better one right now: there are quite a few people that have been convicted as war criminals for "applying law" as they were ordered to do.

The law can be very wrong sometimes, and it's the responsibility of an ethical human being to disobey such laws, whether by non-application or nullification, until such time as those laws are corrected.

I actually think that's a great example; no need for apologies. (And, after all, I did set the example with my original comment and white supremacists.)

My response would be that, in such cases, there exist two sets of conflicting laws. The national law, which was not being broken, and the supra-national law regarding human rights and war crimes, which was. So that is actually an example of rule of law being upheld, just not national law.

The bottom line is, you need to be really, really careful when you start arguing for "ethics" and "morality" as a basis for execution of law. For instance, to make a concrete example: It could be argued that based on the ethics and morality of the Nazis, that the mass murders committed under the Holocaust were in fact them morally disobeying those supra-national human rights laws. Who are you to say that the Nazi morality is wrong? You can't point to the agreed-upon supra-national human rights laws, because you are in fact arguing that law should be violated based on morality!

In fact, one of the ways to view law is as an encoding of the morality of the society it covers. Sometimes laws, being fixed entities, and society, being ever changing, drift apart over time. Same as software drifts from the requirements of business if not kept up to date. It usually takes an example like this German one to point out the absurdity, and if the law really is no longer part of the society's morality, becomes fairly easy for lawmakers to fix. (As a reminder, this law being invoked is very old -- from when Germany was a monarchy and insulting dictator kings was morally a very serious crime!)

You might have missed it because it's used here toward unsavory aims, but the situation jdmichal is describing is also non-violent civil disobedience.

Individual ethics trumps democratically created legislation in your system.

This is a problem.

You're promoting anarchy which isn't a workable system AFAICT - the gaoler believes it's wrong not to accept a bribe because that will mean his child goes hungry, so he should release the criminal despite the democratically elected officials having openly created a law that has not been opposed by the people (eg in massed protest)?

I appreciate the sentiment here; however, you must consider that there are many roles in government where you must weigh your duty to the law against your duty to your personal convictions. I imagine as a judge there are decisions you uphold that would directly contradict your beliefs.

The alternative is a rejection of conservatism in the worst way: the state can change too quickly for society to have a proper discourse on whether we made a mistake or not. "Revolution" is a relatively positive word these days and it's easy to forget that actual lives are often lost when mob mentality takes precedent over rule of law.

This specific law requires approval of the federal government before the prosecution can go forward. It was written into that law with exactly that intent.

We'll have to see how honest they are when it becomes their interest to intervene in the business of prosecutors and the courts. It goes both ways so it remains to be seen.

That said, my take is that if the law is unjust, I prefer the law to be overturned rather than not prosecute on the law or rely on disobedience.

In this case prosecuting may create enough bad will that people will find it unpalatable and work to have it overturned to the dismay of foreign "dignitaries".

On the face of it the law seems incompatible with the ECHR wrt rights to expression and freedom of conscience, so an appeal might well have the prosecution overturned even if the law stands and the actions are considered to contravene it. Without seeing the video though it's not clear if it's just plain libellous or not.

Than it shouldn't have gotten to her desk at all. But it got - so it is outside of the law system anyway. It is her decision.


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