A Turkish high court ruled on Thursday that the country's Wikipedia ban was unconstitutional, and over two and a half years after the ban, the defenders of freedom of expression prevailed
The Turkish Constitutional Court – the highest court that could review the matter – ruled in favor of Wikipedia after lawyers from the online encyclopedia argued that the ban violated freedom of expression, according to Stephen LaPorte, the legal director the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, protects the Turkish constitution.
In a statement on Thursday, the foundation hoped that "access to Turkey will be restored soon". A summary of the case was posted on the court's website. But before the ban is lifted, a full statement will most likely have to be released, said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, who also contested the Wikipedia ban.
He said he awaits the court's decision to enforce Thursday.
"We are joining the Turkish people and the millions of readers and volunteers who rely on Wikipedia worldwide to welcome this important recognition of universal access to knowledge," the foundation said in its statement ,
The Turkish embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The ban was seen as another attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to crack down on the ban on freedom of expression. Mr Erdogan was encouraged after a failed coup attempt in July 2016 after initiating a major clean-up of Turkish institutions and suspending or firing thousands of suspected dissidents, including judges and police officers, in April 2017, in Erdogan's government, where dozens of journalists were sentenced to prison has been sentenced, has received extensive executive powers.
That same month, Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia after the website refused to remove content that the government had found objectionable. including references to his relationship with terrorists and Syrian fighters. The country said it banned the site to protect public order or national security.
Days after the ban was imposed, Wikimedia requested a court to lift the ban, LaPorte said. A court in Ankara ruled against the foundation and filed a series of appeals shortly thereafter.
The Foundation announced in May that it had filed a lawsuit against the ban with the European Court of Human Rights. An answer from Turkey in this case is due in January, the foundation said.
Many viewed Thursday's decision as an attempt by Turkey to anticipate or blunt a decision by the European Court.
"This is to prevent the European Court of Justice from making a judgment before the Constitutional Court makes its judgment," said Akdeniz. "That would have been harmful to Turkey."
Thursday's verdict was not the first time that the Turkish Constitutional Court examined bans on popular websites. In 2014, the court found that bans on YouTube and Twitter violated freedom of expression.
Mr. Akdeniz said Thursday's decision was "welcome". But he said, "It's two and a half years late."
"The constitutional court should have given priority to this case," he said.