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TV Station Stands Behind German Comedian Who Mocked Erdogan

A combination of pictures shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she gives a statement on Turkey's request to seek prosecution of German comedian Jan Boehmermann (R) who read out a sexually crude poem about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on German television, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany April 15, 2016, and a file picture of Boehmermann during a TV show of Markus Lanz in Hamburg on February 10, 2013.

A German television station is pledging its full support to comedian Jan Boehmermann in any legal proceeding brought against him for mocking Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The head of Germany's ZDF television made the pledge Saturday, a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her government would grant a Turkish request for prosecution of the comedian. She added that it is up to the courts to decide his guilt or innocence.

ZDF chief Thomas Bellut told the weekly Der Spiegel that Boehmermann can count on the full support of the station.

He said the public broadcaster has ensured the comedian that it “will accompany him through all levels of jurisdiction," in his legal dispute with Erdogan. The editor who approved the broadcast "will not face any kind of disciplinary measures," Bellut added.

In a TV show on March 31, Boehmermann recited a crude poem suggesting that Erdogan hits girls, watches child pornography and engages in bestiality. The Turkish government subsequently sent a letter to the German Foreign Ministry demanding the prosecution of Boehmermann for insulting a foreign head of state.

TV clip removed

ZDF has since removed the TV clip from its online video hub. Bellut said he took the action based on his “personal system of moral values" and that he has rejected a demand by the editorial staff to put the satirical poem back online as a "historical document."

Merkel’s decision has prompted a mixed reaction in Germany, which is seeking Turkish assistance to deal with a flood of Syrian and other refugees pouring into Europe.

Critics say that the comedian went too far, while supporters say he simply exercised his freedom of expression.