You can hardly fail before the Federal Constitutional Court more clearly than Jan Böhmermann.

In a decision published on Thursday, the judges rejected his constitutional complaint for formal reasons, they did not even add a reason.

At the end of the almost six-year-old legal dispute is the simple sentence: "The constitutional complaint will not be accepted for decision because it has no chance of success."

Marlene Grunert

Editor in Politics.

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The satirist had appealed to the Hamburg Higher Regional Court before the Constitutional Court, according to which he was not allowed to repeat 18 of the 24 lines of his "slanderous poem" directed against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In particular, "disparaging images from the intimate and sexual area" were forbidden to him.

The civil judges included statements such as "His soldering stinks badly of doner kebab, even a pig's fart smells nicer" or "Pervert, lice-infested and zoophile, Recep Fritzl Priklopil".

Lines like "Kick the Kurds, hit the Christians" were allowed.

According to the court, this is about genuine criticism of Erdogan's policies.

The judges also let through statements such as "Dumb, cowardly and uptight is Erdogan, the President".


Böhmermann recited the six-stanza poem in his program "Neo Magazin Royale" at the end of March 2016 and prefaced the post with an inadmissible abusive criticism.

He wanted to illustrate the legal limits of freedom of expression to Erdogan.

What do politicians have to accept?

The excitement was great, especially when then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, at Erdogan's request, authorized criminal prosecution.

This only happened because the Turkish President invoked the insult to foreign government politicians, which was still forbidden at the time, a special form of insult that was punished more severely and required authorization from the federal government.

In the weeks of debate, it was soon less about the fact that Merkel had complied with Erdogan's request.

The focus was on the fact that the "lese-majeste" was still a punishable offense in Germany.

The paragraph was deleted in July 2017. 

The norm was not only intended to protect the honor of foreign presidents, but also Germany's relationship with other states - and was in considerable contradiction to the line of the Federal Constitutional Court.

Accordingly, politicians are not privileged in the public opinion battle, they have to endure more than normal citizens.

They are therefore not without protection, not even after the abolition of the "lese-majesty".

Under criminal law, they can invoke the offense of normal insult, and civil law is also open to them.

Karlsruhe recently clarified the limits of what politicians have to accept in its decision on Green Party politician Renate Künast.

At its core, it is always a question of weighing up freedom of expression or artistic freedom and personal rights.

In the civil dispute between Böhmermann and Erdogan, the latter prevailed.



From a criminal point of view, the investigators saw it differently in 2016.

The public prosecutor's office in Mainz took up investigations, but stopped them after a few months.

In view of the satirical nature of the poem, prosecutors had doubts as to whether the objective elements of the insult had been met.

The poem is an "almost absurd accumulation of completely exaggerated, seemingly absurd attributions of negatively evaluated characteristics and behavior that lack any connection to actual circumstances - obviously intentionally." In any case, Böhmermann lacked the intention to insult Erdogan.

Investigators credited him with wanting to set an example of transgressing freedom of expression.



The civil judges did not follow this line of argument, although different standards apply to them than in criminal law.

In the first instance, the Hamburg Regional Court prohibited the 18 of the 24 lines.

Erdogan must put up with drastic criticism, but not everything.

In the event that Böhmermann would repeat the poem in its original form, the judges imposed a fine of 250,000 euros on him.

The Higher Regional Court shared the view that the Turkish President's human dignity had been violated in some cases.

The announcement that freedom of expression is now being violated does not turn an illegal statement into a legitimate one.



The judges rejected Böhmermann's objection that the poem could not be dissected, but only appreciated in its entirety.

"Neither the broadcast as a whole nor the poem form a unified, inseparable work whose admissibility could only be assessed as a whole." They left it open whether artistic freedom or freedom of expression was affected.

The satirist then went before the Federal Constitutional Court, which obtained several opinions.

The constitutional lawyer and author Bernhard Schlink emphasized in a report for verdi that the court was not directed against Erdogan personally, but against him as head of state.

Schlink spoke out in favor of allowing the constitutional complaint.

The second chamber of the first senate now saw things differently.

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