Court orders temporary halt on Turkey's Twitter ban
Members of the Turkish Youth Union hold cartoons depicting Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest against a ban on Twitter, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, March 21, 2014. (AP / Burhan Ozbilici)
ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish court ordered the telecommunications authority to restore access to Twitter on Wednesday, issuing an injunction five days after the government blocked access to the social network.
The ban came shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to "rip out the roots" of Twitter, which has been a conduit for links to recordings suggesting government corruption. Turkey holds crucial local elections Sunday, widely regarded as a referendum on Erdogan's rule.
The telecommunications authority had accused Twitter of disobeying Turkish court orders to remove content. The move drew international criticism and many Turkish users flouted the ban, finding immediate ways to circumvent it. President Abdullah Gul tweeted his opposition to the blockage.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters the telecommunications authority would obey Wednesday's court decision when it received official notice, but reserved the right to appeal.
A government official said, however, the authority had 30 days in which to implement the court's decision. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
Twitter said, meanwhile, that it had also filed petitions to several Turkish courts, seeking an overturn of the ban.
"Millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that," Twitter general counsel Vijaya Gadde said in a statement posted on the company's blog.
Gadde said two of three court orders cited by Turkish authorities as reason for the shutdown were related to content that violated Twitter's own rules -- and had been removed. The third, however, related to accusations of corruption into a former minister and was being challenged in court.
The administrative court in Ankara based its decision on the principles of freedom of expression and the right to communication freely, as cited in Turkey's Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Erdogan remained defiant. During an election rally in northern Turkey, Erdogan accused opposition parties or media who criticized the Twitter ban of being the "advocate of companies who don't recognize Turkey's laws and treat Turkey as a Third World country."
Lawyers, opposition parties and journalists groups asked courts to overturn the ban, arguing it was illegal and unconstitutional.