German cabinet decides to scrap law against insulting leaders

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The German cabinet has decided to scrap a passage in its criminal code that prohibits insults against foreign leaders. This comes almost a year after a satirist recited on television an obscene poem about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The relevant passage is known as a ‘lese majeste’ or ‘lese majesty’ law – literally, “injured majesty.” Such laws, which prohibit injuring the dignity of a sovereign, date back to the ancient Roman Republic and are still on the books in several European countries.   

In the case in question, Erdogan lodged a complaint with German prosecutors against Jan Böhmermann after the latter declaimed on German television verses linking Erdogan to bestiality and child pornography, Reuters reported. 

"The idea of lese majesty arose in an era long gone by. It no longer belongs in our criminal law," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. The Bundestag lower house of parliament still has to decide on the law change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew criticism after she authorized prosecutors to pursue a case against the satirist. 

Reuters said the prosecutors have since dropped the investigation, but a civil suit between Erdogan and Böhmermann is not yet over. A district court in Hamburg will decide on Erdogan's action for an injunction on 10 February. 

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