(Adds details, comments from lawyers, context)
BERLIN Oct 4 German prosecutors said on Tuesday
they had dropped an investigation into a German comedian who was
accused of offending a foreign leader after reciting an obscene
poem about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on national
Comedian Jan Boehmermann read out a poem on a satirical show
in March suggesting Erdogan engaged in bestiality and watched
child pornography, prompting the Turkish leader to file a
complaint with prosecutors that he had been insulted.
That further strained ties between Ankara and Berlin after
Turkey was outraged by a resolution passed by Germany's
parliament that declared the 1915 massacre of Armenians by
Ottoman forces to be a genocide.
Tensions have risen at a time when Germany is relying on
Turkey's help to stem the flow of illegal migrants to Europe.
The German government had given prosecutors the green light
to pursue the case against Boehmermann - a move for which
Chancellor Angela Merkel was strongly criticised.
But prosecutors in the western city of Mainz said on Tuesday
they had not found sufficient evidence to suggest that any
criminal offences had been committed by Boehmermann or anyone
else involved in making or broadcasting the piece.
Under Germany's criminal code, insults against foreign
leaders are not permitted but the government can decide whether
to authorise prosecutors to go ahead.
Prosecutors said the right to freedom of opinion could not
be guaranteed without any reservations, but pointed out that
Boehmermann's recital was intended to be an example of what
would constitute overstepping the boundaries of freedom of
opinion rather than Boehmermann expressing his own views.
"Exaggerations, distortion and alienation are
characteristics of the genre of satire and caricature,"
prosecutors said in a statement.
They said the recital was part of a programme that is widely
known for being satirical and the well-informed audience would
have understood that what was expressed in it was often
exaggerated and not serious.
Daniel Krause, Boehmermann's lawyer in the Mainz case,
welcomed the prosecutors' decision, saying it was "in accordance
with the rule of law and had withstood any political pressure".
In a separate case, Erdogan's lawyer has filed a complaint
with a court in Hamburg in a bid to get the poem banned in its
entirety after a court issued a preliminary ruling in May
banning re-publication of parts.
Christian Schertz, Boehmermann's lawyer in that case, said
Merkel had overstepped her boundaries by calling Boehmermann's
poem "deliberately insulting" and said that comment could have
encouraged the Turkish government to take steps against
Boehmermann. He said Boehmermann would give a statement at 1630
local time (1430 GMT) on Wednesday.
Erdogan's office did not immediately respond to a request by
reporters for comment.
Turkish prosecutors have opened around 2,000 cases against
people for insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014,
though he has dropped many of them since the failed military
coup in July.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin and Ayla Jean Yackley
in Istanbul; Editing by Andrea Shalal/Mark Heinrich)