ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A Turkish court on Wednesday suspended a controversial ban on Twitter following an appeal even as the site’s lawyers pursue separate legal action against the government’s shutdown order, local media reports.
Senior members of Turkey’s ruling party said they would abide by the court’s decision, which the state-run Anadolu news agency labeled a “temporary injunction.”
The Turkish telecommunications authority blocked Twitter on Friday, just hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hounded by corruption allegations leaked to social media platforms, vowed to “eradicate” it.
The blockage prompted global outrage and widespread mockery, while Twitter use initially took off throughout the country, which has an estimated 12 million users. The hashtag #Turkeyblockedtwitter trended globally.
The stay was issued by the 15th Administrative Court in Ankara, the capital, which upheld an appeal by Turkey’s bar association, local media reported.
“We will implement the court’s decision,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, according to Hurriyet Daily News. “We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out.”
The government has 30 days to comply with the court order, but can still appeal the decision to a regional administrative court.
Twitter’s legal representatives have been in negotiations with authorities since the ban was imposed. Turkey claims a legal basis for the move based on three court rulings, one relating to an account accusing a former minister of corruption.
“This order causes us concern,” a statement from Twitter read, explaining the site’s efforts to petition the Turkish courts separately from the bar association’s action. “Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption.”
Twitter users throughout Turkey easily evaded the ban at first. The country’s revered president, Abdullah Gul, who co-founded the ruling Justice and Development Party with Erdogan and Arinc more than a decade ago, defied the ban by tweeting his disapproval, exposing fissures within the party.
However, reports indicate that further government measures to enforce the block had begun to bite, with Twitter use registering a nearly 50% drop by Wednesday.
The court’s decision is likely to anger Erdogan, whose contempt for social media has hardened since mass demonstrations last year at Istanbul’s Gezi Park saw them used to organize and inform protesters. He has expanded his focus to include Facebook and YouTube.
“This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots,” he said during a rally before many hundreds of thousands of supporters in Istanbul on Sunday. “I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”
Johnson is a special correspondent.