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Turkey's President Wants Germany To Jail A Comedian Who Insulted Him

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed comedian Jan Böhmermann to be prosecuted at the behest of Turkey's government.

By Matt Picht | April 15, 2016

A raunchy poem is causing an international incident between Germany and Turkey, leaving German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position.

German comedian Jan Böhmermann read a so-called "Defamatory Poem" about Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on national TV several weeks ago. The Turkish government took exception to that and is pushing the German government to prosecute Böhmermann.

Ordinarily, the poem would be protected under free-speech laws, but Germany's penal code includes an obscure clause written in the 1800s that criminalizes insults against representatives of foreign states. Turkey asked Merkel to prosecute Böhmermann under this law, and she allowed the trial to go ahead.

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Merkel's reluctance to defend Böhmermann is likely political expediency: Turkey is a key component of the European Union's plan to manage the refugee crisis, and Merkel is reluctant to upset the delicate balance of their relationship.

But the case angered proponents of free speech, who believe the German government should be staunchly defending Böhmermann. Someone who is defending Böhmermann: one of his previous targets — Greece's ex-finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

Varoufakis told a German TV station, "I thought it was done in very good taste, despite the cost it had on me, and I'll be damned if I see anyone like him being persecuted by people who oppose basic democratic liberties."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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