Angela Merkel is facing a backlash following the collapse of a criminal case her government authorised against one of Germany’s most popular comedians for insulting the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Jan Böhmermann lashed out at Mrs Merkel’s government in his first public comments since prosecutors announced this week they were dropping the case against him for lack of evidence.
“If a joke causes a constitutional crisis, it’s not the joke that’s the problem, it’s the state,” Mr Böhmermann said.
Although the 35-year-old did not mention Mrs Merkel by name, the remark was clearly aimed at her government’s decision to allow the prosecution under Germany’s rarely invoked lese-majeste law.
His lawyer went further, accusing Mrs Merkel of prejudicing the case against him.
Public statements the chancellor made about the case “amounted to a public prejudgement” and “violated the constitutional principle of the separation of powers,” Christian Schertz said.
The Turkish government demanded Mr Böhmermann’s prosecution over a poem he read out on television in which he called Mr Erdogan a “goat-f*****” and described him watching child pornography.
Mr Böhmermann faced up to five years in prison under the lese-majeste law, which prohibits insulting a foreign head of state.
Prosecutions require the approval of the German government, and Mrs Merkel was accused of seeking to appease the authoritarian Mr Erdogan and safeguard the EU’s controversial migrant deal with Turkey when her government made the surprise decision to let the case go ahead.
Mr Böhmermann was defiant in his first public appearance since the case was dropped.
In a pre-recorded video statement which veered wildly in tone, he made light of the controversy and gave a bizarre rendition of the Monty Python song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life complete with a surprisingly convincing English accent.
But he also signalled he was not prepared to back down and renewed his attack on Mr Erdogan.
“Compared to what critical journalists, satirists and opposition figures are going through in Turkey, all this fuss about the Böhmermann Affair is a big sad joke in itself,” he said.
“While you sit watch this video people are in prison in Turkey with no chance of a fair trial, their passports surrendered, their jobs lost, just because they took a critical look at their own country.
“Meanwhile, their relatives in Germany are afraid to speak freely on the phone, because they fear reprisals against their loved ones in Turkey.”
Prosecutors accepted Mr Böhmermann’s argument the poem was satirical and not meant to be taken seriously.
As the decision was announced this week, the Turkish authorities suspended nearly 13,000 police officers from duty, detained dozens of air force officers and closed down a TV station in a renewed crackdown against dissent.
Mr Erdogan’s supporters have reacted furiously to the collapse of the case. The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah described it as “a scandal”.
“Obviously some people can throw limitless s*** around with impunity,” Bülent Döğer of the Union of European Turkish Democrats, an organisation of EU residents of Turkish origin, said.
Laywers for Mr Erdogan have reportedly lodged an appeal against the decision.
Meanwhile Mr Böhmermann is still facing a civil lawsuit brought by the Turkish president over the poem.