Oltermann goes on to say that paragraph 103 has become known in Germany as the “Shah paragraph”, after the Iranian leader Mohammed Reza Pahlavi tried to get demonstrators prosecuted after a visit in 1967. The German interior minister at the time flew to Tehran and managed to persuade Pahlavi to drop the matter.
The last time it troubled German courts was six years ago, when a Bavarian judge ruled that a banner showing Pope Benedict with a red ribbon and condoms on his fingers had been unfairly removed from a Christopher Street Day parade in Munich.
Senior politicians from the Social Democrats, the Greens, and Alternative für Deutschland have campaigned for paragraph 103 to be deleted from the criminal code.
“This is an antiquated rule,” said Thomas Oppermann, party faction leader of the SPD, the junior member in Angela Merkel’s coalition. “It no longer suits the modern age.”
The deletion could take place as soon as in two weeks – which would still be too late to solve Merkel’s dilemma. “The German penal code can be changed quickly, but not quickly enough to let off Bohmermann,” said Ralf Hocker, a media lawyer.
Hocker told the Guardian he expected the trial to go ahead, but that it was unlikely the comedian would end up in jail. Given that Bohmermann has no previous convictions, he would more likely be asked to pay a small fine or make a donation to charity.
In most of the UK, defamation was decriminalised as recently as 2009.