BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan after he was denied an injunction to prevent the chief executive of Europe’s largest newspaper publisher Axel Springer from repeating an insulting poem.
In an open letter published in April, Mathias Doepfner expressed his support for German comedian Jan Boehmermann, who is being investigated by prosecutors for reading a crude satirical poem about Erdogan on television in March.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been widely criticized for allowing German prosecutors to pursue a case against Boehmermann at the behest of Erdogan, a key partner in her effort to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey into Europe.
German-Turkish ties have also been strained by Turkey’s outrage over resolution passed by Germany’s parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide..
The appeals court in Cologne said it had upheld the ruling in May from the lower court which rejected a preliminary injunction against Doepfner, saying his comments constituted acceptable expressions of opinion and were protected under German freedom of speech laws.
The court said no further appeals were possible, although Erdogan could still file a constitutional complaint. Such complaints are seldom upheld.
It said the decision did not address the legality of the poem, which Boehmermann read on German television in March.
Erdogan’s lawyers in Germany said they still were evaluating whether to file a separate lawsuit against Doepfner.
Boehmermann’s poem suggested Erdogan hit girls, watched child pornography and engaged in bestiality. The Turkish leader promptly launched legal action. In May a court responded to a complaint by Erdogan and banned republication of 18 of 24 sections, saying they amounted to abuse and libel.
In his open letter published in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in April, Doepfner said he had laughed out loud over the poem and “wholeheartedly” supported what the comedian had said.
A spokeswoman for Springer had said Doepfner “wanted to defend the freedom of art and satire in his open letter”. She declined to comment further on Tuesday.
Erdogan is known for his sensitivity to criticism and Turkish prosecutors have opened over 1,800 cases against people for insulting him since he became president in 2014.
Germany’s criminal code prohibits insults against foreign leaders, but the government has leeway to pursue specific cases.
Reporting by Klaus Lauer; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alison Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky