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Turkey’s Twitter ban upheld

Ankara court denies appeal from bar association, ahead of Sunday’s elections

If the ruling stands, Twitter will be blocked until after local elections.
If the ruling stands, Twitter will be blocked until after local elections.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan yesterday scored another victory in his battle to ban the use of Twitter nationwide during the run-up to a critical local election, which he fears may be influenced by the release of online of tapes accusing him of corruption.

According to a report from Reuters, an Ankara court denied an appeal from the bar association, but a source in Erdogan's office said the country's telecoms regulator had 30 days to either implement the ban or lodge an appeal.

Twitter also challenged the ruling in a separate filing, describing the blocking order as "disproportionate and illegal". If the current ruling stays in place, the ban of the microblogging service would stay in place until after the polls close on Sunday.

The election is being seen as a test for Erdogan as he stands accused of graft. The premier asserts that the tapes are fake and that all corruption allegations have been fabricated by a former ally, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

On Friday Erdogan made moves to "root out" Twitter and instructed the telecoms authority to block the service, leading to widespread condemnation at home and abroad.

Some Turkish tweeters have implemented workarounds, and Reuters cited "Internet analysts" who reported an increase in tweets since the block was imposed.

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Twitter has already removed content related to two of three court orders because they violated its own rules. But the US-based firm is challenging a third order to remove an account accusing an ex-minister of corruption.

"With all announced bases for the access ban addressed, there are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey," it said in an official blog posting. "We expect the government to restore access to Twitter immediately so that its citizens can continue an open online dialogue ahead of the elections," the statement said.

Erdogan on Tuesday accused Twitter of "threatening national security" and has repeatedly defended the ban at election rallies.

"Our problem is not Twitter itself but its approach ... The court ruling was conveyed to Twitter. It does not listen to it," Erdogan said in a TV interview late on Tuesday about the original decision to block access.

"You are threatening the national security of my country," he said.

Erdogan's pledge to root out Twitter, and the regulator's move to block it, met with strong criticism from EU officials and the US government, which spoke of "21st-century book burning".