Jan Boehmermann
Jan Boehmermann

ISTANBUL - Ankara is demanding German satirist Jan Boehmermann be jailed for a poem it alleges insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish leader's lawyers have petitioned German prosecutors to jail the comedian under a German law that criminalizes insulting foreign leaders.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus made clear he expects Berlin to act, saying Turkey's government will not accept the insult made to the elected president of Turkey.

In Turkey, more than 1,800 people — including schoolchildren — have been prosecuted for comments posted on social media that insult Erdogan.

The president's move to prosecute Boehmermann is seen as an escalation of the Turkish leader's legal campaign.

In Istanbul, opinions are divided on the move against the comedian.

"The president has his own rights,” said one man. “When someone insults the German president they put him into the prison, also the American president. They have to be law to protect their president because they have own rights."

Another man strongly disagreed, seeing the issue as part of a worrying trend.

"Actually we get used it, it is always happening,” he said. “It is like normal for us, his [Erdogan's] behavior. And from now on, I do not think that it will change. It is his habit, kind of. He is doing it here, also in other countries. But I am always supporting freedom, democracy; but at the moment in Turkey, it's not available."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, is g
FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 5, 2015. Observers warn of an increasingly assertive Turkish president who is well aware of Turkey's importance to Europe.

Emboldened Turkish leader

Analysts point out that the future of the European Union, and in particular German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is in part tied to the success of a recent deal the EU struck with Ankara to stem the flood of migrants and refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Suleyman Sah University says Erdogan's decision to pursue the German satirist is evidence of how emboldened he has become in his dealings with Europe.

"It tells a lot about the scope of his power, and he and his entourage see this limitless power that he has got,” Aktar said. “The problem is not with what he is doing. The problem is with those who are responding positively to his requests and, to start with, the German government. The German government is literally afraid of Mr. Erdogan."

Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, gave a thinly veiled threat, saying he hoped the controversy over the satirist did not undermine Turkey’s newly found cooperation with Europe and, in particular, Berlin. 

Observers warn that Europe should prepare itself for an increasingly assertive Turkish president who is well aware of Turkey's importance to its partners.