Germany to drop 'lese majeste' law

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Friday, January 27, 2017

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet announced Germany is to drop the 'lese majeste' law which protects foreign leaders from insult. This law is to come under effect in January 2018.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from file
Image: FNDE.

German justice minister Heiko Maas called this law redundant and said, "the idea of lese majesty arose in an era long gone by. It no longer belongs in our criminal law".

A year ago, German satirist Jan Böhmermann presented a poem on the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the poem he said Erdoğan "kicks the Kurds, smacks the Christians, all while watching child pornography", National Public Radio reported. Böhmermann also called the Turkish leader "stupid, cowardly and uptight".

In April, Böhmermann faced investigation, authorised by Merkel. Judges in Hamburg called the poem abusive. In October, the investigation was dropped on grounds of insufficient evidence of a crime. A final hearing on an injunction against Böhmermann is scheduled for February 10 in Hamburg.

If the measure passes, German citizens would not be prosecuted by their government specifically for dishonouring foreign leaders. However, Maas says foreign leaders have the same right as any other plaintiff to file a civil defamation suit.

The change to the law would require action by the German Bundestag.

Sources

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