Erdoğan 'becomes first prime minister to sue state in history'

Erdoğan 'becomes first prime minister to sue state in history'

Erdoğan becomes first prime minister to sue state in history

Protesters hold placards reading ‘Don’t touch my Twitter’ and ‘The right to communication is a basic human right’ during a recent demonstration against the Turkish government’s ban on Twitter in Ankara. The government has defended its ban on Twitter as a ‘preventive measure’ for individual’s rights. AFP photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made an application to the Constitutional Court on April 18 over the failure to implement court rulings requesting the removal of content violating his rights, according to a senior official from his office. Erdoğan is seeking 50,000 Turkish Liras in compensation, Reuters reported.

The move has been described as a “first of its kind” by the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) head Metin Feyzioğlu, who said the prime minister of Turkey had never before filed a lawsuit against the state.

“There is no precedent for the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic to sue the Turkish Republic and demand compensation. This is happening for the first time,” said Feyzioğlu.

He also described Erdoğan’s application to the Constitutional Court as “unlawful,” on the grounds that domestic remedies had not yet been exhausted.

“[The prime minister] could file a lawsuit against Twitter if he believes he received damage through it. He could have filed a lawsuit against the TİB [the telecommunications authority] if he believes that the removal of the ban on Twitter was unlawful,” said Feyzioğlu, adding that he believed that the prime minister was “misguided” in his application.

Erdoğan’s government attracted global ridicule after it blocked Twitter and YouTube in March, seeking to prevent citizens from accessing content purportedly showing AKP corruption.

The Twitter block was lifted earlier this month after the Constitutional Court ruled that it breached freedom of expression, a decision that Erdoğan has since said was wrong and should be overturned. Despite the Court’s ruling, YouTube remains blocked in Turkey.

A delegation from Twitter, led by its head of global public policy, Colin Crowell, held talks on April 14 with officials from the prime minister’s office, the Communications Ministry and telecom authorities.

The meeting brought no immediate deal to open a Twitter office in Turkey or for it to pay Turkish tax, two of Ankara’s key requests. However, following the talks, Turkish officials said Twitter had implemented three important court rulings, adding that it would enact several other decisions within a week while it considered other issues.

Turkey has said it wants the removal of tweets it considers harmful to national security, the privacy of individuals and personal rights, and wants Twitter to hand over the IP addresses of accounts that it views as a threat.