Germany abolishing law criminalizing insults of foreign leaders

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Deutsche Welle:

"The idea of 'lese majeste' dates back to a long-gone era, it no longer belongs in our criminal law," Justice Minister Heiko Maas (pictured above) said. "The regulation is obsolete and unnecessary," he added.

Maas said heads of state and government would still be able to defend themselves against slander and defamation "but no more or less so than any other person."

Insulted foreign leaders will still be able to pursue their own libel and defamation cases. The main difference between the laws was the extent of the sentence, insulting a political leader could carry up to three years in jail while ordinary libel or slander can carry a one-year jail sentence or a fine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016 asked the German government to authorize an investigation into prominent TV satirist Jan Böhmermann using the law. Chancellor Angela Merkel approved the request, to considerable criticism, although prosecutors ultimately dropped the case in November, saying there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

Very good to hear.

NOTE: I had originally quoted an AP story, but on rereading the post (and reading one of the comments), I realized that the AP account was confusing, so I decided to quote the more detailed Deutsche Welle story instead. And this reminds me that I generally prefer to use reputable accounts from the foreign country itself, when possible.

'Germany will abolish law against insulting foreign heads of state'

So reports a CBS News headline to an AP story:

[German] Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday said Germany was abolishing a law requiring the government's permission to allow the prosecution of anyone deemed to have insulted a foreign head of state, saying it was "outdated and unnecessary."

Last year, the German government was put in the awkward position of having to grant a Turkish request to allow prosecutors to investigate a TV comic who wrote a crude poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Prosecutors later dropped the investigation of comic Jan Boehmermann, citing insufficient evidence that he committed any crime …

Very good to hear.