Turkey lifts Twitter ban after court ruling

Access to Twitter is expected to be restored in the coming hours

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Turkey’s telecom authorities lifted a two-week-old ban on Twitter after the constitutional court ruled the block breached freedom of expression, an official in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office said on Thursday.

Telecoms authority TIB removed court orders enforcing the Twitter ban from its website, a move which the Hurriyet daily said was a first step toward a complete lifting of the ban, according to AFP.

TIB has to inform internet service providers of its decision, and access to the social media site was expected to be restored in the coming hours, the news report said.

Google’s video-sharing website YouTube remains offline in Turkey, the TIB having blocked it one week after blocking Twitter. Legal challenges against the YouTube ban are pending, according to Reuters.

Following the court’s decision, President Abdullah Gul, who has opposed the bans, was quoted as saying both websites should be made available in Turkey once more. San Francisco-based Twitter said in a tweet that it welcomed the ruling.

Within minutes of the ban being lifted, the micro-blogging site was flooded with messages, with one user saying “Welcome back to Twitter, Turkey.”

The ban was imposed in the run-up to last Sunday's local elections after a stream of leaked wiretapped recordings of senior officials appeared on the site.

Erdogan’s critics saw the ban as the latest in a series of authoritarian measures to crush a corruption scandal that had grown into one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule.

Tech-savvy Turks quickly found workarounds, with Internet analysts reporting a surge in tweets since the ban was imposed, but the issue has become a tug-of-war between Erdogan’s administration and the micro blogging site.

The U.S. State Department had responded to the court ruling by urging Ankara to respect the decision and end the blockage.

Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the leaked tapes - which point to wrongdoing by officials and members of his inner circle - as fabrication, and part of a political plot against him.

His Islamist-rooted AK Party emerged far ahead of rival parties in municipal elections on Sunday that had become a referendum on his rule.

[With AFP and Reuters]

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