Popular German comedian Jan Bohmermann is facing up to five years in prison in Germany for violating a law against insulting foreign heads of state, after reading a poem mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on television.
The German law carries a sentence of three years for general insults, and that penalty extends to five years if the insult is “intentionally slanderous,” which Bohmermann’s comments were. Erdogan has repeatedly complained to the German government about satirical programs mocking him.
Bohmermann read to poem as a “direct” message to Erdogan, meant to explain the difference between satirical commentary and direct slander, providing his poem as the later. In it, he accused him of having oral sex with hundreds of sheep.
Erdogan has reacted furiously to even tepid criticism historically, and is believed to be leaning heavily on Germany to do something. Bohmermann’s massive popularity, however, may make this a serious test to the German law itself, and force a rethink.