German Judge Files a Criminal Complaint Against German Chancellor, Based on the Chancellor’s Saying She’s Glad Osama Is Dead

Spiegel Online reports:

Hamburg judge Heinz Uthmann went even further. He alleges that the chancellor’s statement was nothing short of illegal, and filed a criminal complaint against Merkel midweek, the daily Hamburger Morgenpost reported Friday.

“I am a law-abiding citizen and as a judge, sworn to justice and law,” the 54-year-old told the paper, adding that Merkel’s words were “tacky and undignified.”

In his two-page document, Uthmann, a judge for 21 years, cites section 140 of the German Criminal Code, which forbids the “rewarding and approving” of crimes. In this case, Merkel endorsed a “homicide,” Uthmann claimed. The violation is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine.

As best I can tell from the story, Uthmann acted in his capacity as a citizen, asking the government to investigate and prosecute the matter; he wasn’t exercise his judicial power. (Please stop me if I’m wrong.) But I take it that the story was reported at least partly because the complainant was indeed a judge.

I doubt that Americans’ killing Bin Laden would be a crime under German law in any event, since I suspect that German law — like American law — provides that a killing is not criminal if done in the course of lawful warfare, and killing a member of the enemy military forces (including a leader of those forces) is generally lawful. But in any event, this reminds me of the value of American law, under which speech is protected even if does reward and approve of a crime.

I’d love to hear more from German readers, or readers who know the legal and political situation in Germany, about whether this complaint is likely to cause any real legal or political difficulty for Chancellor Merkel. I assume it won’t, partly because she is the Chancellor, but I can’t speak with any confidence about that. And I’d hate to be an ordinary German citizen who has to face a criminal complaint such as this one. Thanks to Michael Totten (guest-blogging at InstaPundit) for the pointer.