A Twitter post shared by a member of the Constitutional Court hours after a local court ignored a top court ruling unconstitutionally stirred debate late on Oct. 13, with the government interpreting it as a coup message.
“The lights are on,” tweeted top court member Engin Yıldırım with a picture of the court’s building, meaning that the Constitutional Court is working at that late hour.
Yıldırım’s tweet came hours after Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court rejected former main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu’s demand for a retrial despite a previous top court ruling. The local court’s decision was slammed for being openly unconstitutional.
Shortly after Yıldırım’s tweet went viral, the Interior Ministry shared a picture of its own building, saying, “Our lights are never off.”
Pro-government social media users interpreted Yıldırım’s tweet as a coup message, saying that the general staff used to tell the government that its lights are on as a warning.
Turkey has suffered from multiple military coups in the past. The most recent attempt was on July 15, 2016, when soldiers loyal to U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen tried to seize power.
Following controversy, Yıldırım explained why he tweeted the picture.
“I meant the lights of the law and not other things,” he said.
The Interior Ministry sent another tweet after Yıldırım’s explanation, saying that the operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s southeast are ongoing “as our lights continue to be on.”
This is not the first time that the ministry and the top court are at odds. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu is known for targeting the Constitutional Court over its rulings frequently, going as far as to say that court head Zühtü Arslan employed the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen when he was the head of the police academy.
In one instance, Yıldırım responded to Soylu by saying, “No body, authority or individual has the right to give orders to courts and judges.”
As Twitter continued to discuss the meanings of the tweets between the ministry and the top court member late on Oct. 13, Yıldırım released a message, saying that he is saddened by how his tweet was interpreted.
“My aim was to emphasize that the Constitutional Court is a light of the law. I never implied anything outside democracy,” he said.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik slammed Yıldırım on Oct. 14.
“It’s shameful and disrespectful for a Constitutional Court member to use a slogan of the interventions that made Turkey suffer in the past. It’s grave for a court member to use a discourse that is the symbol of killing the law,” Çelik said.
“These interventions have destroyed the constitutional order and made our people suffer. Our order of law was destroyed as a result of them,” he added.
AKP Group Deputy Chair Bülent Turan urged the Constitutional Court to “stop this cheap and ridiculous trolling.”
“Don’t we know what this statement means?! Pull it together!” he said.
AKP deputy Mehmet Muş also condemned Yıldırım’s tweet, saying that no one can threaten the will of the nation.
“These people won’t allow juristocracy lovers,” Muş said.
Another AKP deputy, Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, shared a picture of the presidential palace with its lights on.
The Constitutional Court is set to hold an extraordinary meeting on Oct. 14. It also released a statement, saying that a member’s post from his personal social media account doesn’t reflect the court’s views.
“The court stands with the democratic state of law and rejects all anti-democratic attempts against the constitutional order just like it said in the statement released on July 15, 2016,” read the statement.