Top Turkish Court Rules Erdogan Breached Rights

Constitutional Court finds banning of YouTube violated free speech rights guaranteed in constitution.

Ari Yashar ,

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The top Turkish court ruled unanimously on Thursday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration breached citizens' rights to freedom of speech, when it blocked the online video sharing platform YouTube.

Three separate appeals were reviewed by the Constitutional Court regarding the March 27 ban of YouTube, which was made without a court decision and just one day after Turkey's Supreme Court overturned a ban on the social media site Twitter.

The ban was made mere hours after users leaked an audio recording of a private conversation between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the country's top military and intelligence figures about possible military intervention in Syria. 

One of the three appeals on the ban were submitted by YouTube itself, while the others were by Metin Feyzioglu, President of the Union of Turkey's Bar Associations (TBB), and academic Kerem Altiparmak, reports the Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News.

According to the court, the ban violates free speech as guaranteed by Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution, which reads "everyone has the right to express and disseminate his or her thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing, pictures or through other media, individually or collectively."

The ruling of the court will be sent to Turkey's Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) which instituted the ban, with a demand for its removal.

Erdogan previously defended blocking access to social media sites, saying "I cannot understand how sensible people still defend Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. They run all kinds of lies." Initially he blocked access to Twitter after a torrent of anonymous leaks on the site implicating his inner circle in serious corruption charges.

Erdogan's government has raised fears of Turkey turning into a police state, after the parliament dominated by his AKP party in April passed a law allowing the intelligence services to more easily eavesdrop and conduct foreign operations, and giving top agents greater immunity from prosecution.

The law also made the leaking of classified documents an offense punishable by a jail term.

Further raising local unrest against Erdogan, he screamed an anti-Israel slur two weeks ago before sending his security forces to beat a protester in the town of Soma, which was struck by a mining disaster leaving roughly 300 dead.