On April 2, the Constitutional Court ordered access to be restored, calling the two-week ban a violation of the right to free expression. The Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) waited until April 3 to lift the ban. On April 4, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harshly criticized the Constitutional Court for its ruling, saying he did not respect the decision.
The prime minister said the government was obliged to obey the high court’s ruling, while adding: “But I don’t have to respect it. I do not respect this decision.”
He said the Constitutional Court should have rejected the appeal without hearing it, arguing that the ban should have been challenged in the lower courts first. An administrative court in Ankara had made a ruling against the block on Twitter prior to the March 30 elections.
Twitter was banned in Turkey after Erdoğan expressed his dislike of the microblogging site on March 21. He accused the website of ignoring Turkish court rulings ordering the deletion of several accounts, but it is widely believed that the block was in response to graft allegations that implicated the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. Several Twitter users posted audio recordings related to an investigation into government corruption that became public with police raids and detentions made on Dec. 17, 2013.
Kılıç also said the Constitutional Court had made its decision on Twitter on March 25 and then waited around a week for the Turkish government to comply with the decision of the 15th Ankara Administrative Court, which had issued a stay of execution on the Twitter ban in late March.
“When the decision of the administrative court was not put into effect, the Constitutional Court had to announce its ruling. That ruling was made unanimously. No misinterpretation of the ruling should be made,” the top judge stated.
When asked about the prime minister’s criticism that the Constitutional Court should not have made a ruling, as the ban should have been challenged in the lower courts first, Kılıç defined the top court’s ruling as an “exceptional one.”
“In law, there are some exceptional conditions under which the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] does not wait for the completion of the entire legal process. For instance, if a man who is about to be deported believes that applying to the lower courts might take too much time, then he applies to the Constitutional Court or the ECtHR. In this [Twitter] case, the Constitutional Court is allowed to rule on an issue which concerns people’s right to expression and access to information.”
The top judge also responded to the prime minister’s criticism that the Constitutional Court had ruled against Turkey’s national interests, saying: “A constitutional amendment on fundamental rights and freedoms was made in 2004. The change says that if there is a conflict between our national laws and international laws and conventions, the judicial bodies should consider international laws and conventions as their basis. In cases of conflict, the Constitutional Court applies the requirements of universal law. [Judicial] decisions have no nationality, religion or denomination,” he stated.
Kılıç declined to comment on the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations.