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Erdoğan files complaint against German politician who likened him to a ‘sewer rat’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint against a German politician on allegations of insulting and defaming him in remarks likening Erdoğan to a “sewer rat,” the German Spiegel online website reported.

Erdoğan filed the complaint against Wolfgang Kubicki, vice chair of coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP) and a vice president of the German Parliament, through Mustafa Kaplan, his lawyer in Cologne, at the public prosecutor’s office in Hildesheim, a city in Lower Saxony.

The German politician made the controversial remarks about Erdoğan during a recent FDP election campaign event in Hildesheim.

Kubicki, who warned of a new wave of refugees in Europe, said Germany should not “simply open its arms again” as it did during the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016. He said he knows who was behind the refugee wave back then.

“Erdoğan, the sewer rat,” said Kubicki.

The German politician’s remarks prompted the Turkish Foreign Ministry to summon German Ambassador to Turkey Jürgen Schulz on Tuesday to protest Kubicki’s remarks.

A seven-page petition, dated Sept. 29, was sent to the Hildesheim public prosecutor’s office by Erdoğan’s lawyer. In the petition Kaplan claims that the term “sewer rat” should be understood to mean that Erdoğan is a person “who is seen as morally low, morally degraded and disgusting.”

When asked by the German dpa news agency, however, Kubicki said he was looking forward to a possible legal dispute with Erdoğan. “The fact that Erdogan has initiated around 200,000 such proceedings since he took office in 2014 says it all. …”

Insulting the president is subject to criminal charges under the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), and thousands of people in the country are under investigation, with most of them facing the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of Erdoğan. Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

Kubicki said in contrast to Turkey, Germany is a constitutional state in which freedom of opinion and freedom of expression have central constitutional status. A sewer rat is a “small, cute, but clever and devious creature, which is why it also appears as a protagonist in children’s stories,” Kubicki defended himself by saying when contacted by Reuters earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry distanced itself from the FDP politician’s statements as a spokesman said at a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday that dealings with representatives of other states must be based on respect, adding that insulting statements have no place in international relations and communications. The spokesperson said the ministry expects lawmakers to act accordingly.

After German TV presenter Jan Böhmermann, it is the second prominent German against whom Erdoğan is taking legal action.

German prosecutors in October 2016 dropped an investigation into Böhmermann, a comedian and presenter on German public broadcaster ZDF, accused of insulting Erdoğan.

The prosecutors in the western German city of Mainz said they had not found sufficient evidence to continue the inquiry into Böhmermann.

In March 2016 Böhmermann had recited a satirical poem on TV which made sexual references to Erdoğan.

Erdoğan then filed a complaint alleging that he had been insulted.

Germany later repealed a law that made it a crime to insult a foreign head of state.

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