Turkish court lifts ban on Twitter days before municipal elections



A picture representing a mugshot of the Twitter bird is seen on a smartphone with a Turkish flag in the background in Istanbul on March 26, 2014.

A Turkish court on Wednesday suspended a ban on Twitter, five days after the government blocked access to the popular social media network.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to “rip out the roots” of Twitter after users posted allegations of corruption involving the embattled leader and other senior officials.

The Ankara administrative court issued a temporary injunction against the ban following international and national outcry.

The US State Department had likened the blockage to "21st Century book burning," while Turkish President Abdullah Gul denounced the move as "unacceptable."

More from GlobalPost: Turkey bans Twitter: Here's why

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the telecommunications regulator TIB would obey the decision when it received official notice.

“We abide by the court rulings, that's what the constitution orders. We may not like them, but we abide by them. If this decision is genuine ... then what TIB needs to do after this is obvious," Arinc told reporters.  

But it's not clear when or even if the ban will be lifted. Hours after the court handed down its decision, Twitter remains blocked. The BBC and Reuters reported that the telecommunications regulator has 30 days to comply with the ruling or lodge an appeal. 

The ban was imposed Friday on the grounds Twitter had refused to remove content deemed illegal.

A controversial new internet law passed last month allows the country’s telecommunications authority to order content removed within hours without a court order.

Turkey's Bar Association challenged the ban and the administrative court on Wednesday accepted its argument that the decision was “arbitrary” and without legal grounds.

Many of Turkey’s 10 million Twitter users have been getting around the prohibition by using virtual private networks or tweeting via cell phone text services.

Or writing their tweets by hand like this protester.

The decision to end the blackout comes ahead of Sunday’s local elections, which are seen as a key test of power for Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, now in its 11th year of rule.

It will be the first poll since a graft scandal involving Erdogan’s inner circle broke in December.

Erdogan has accused followers of his former political ally, the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, of plotting to unseat him. So-called Gulenists are believed to have infiltrated the Turkish police and judiciary.

More from GlobalPost: Erdogan says this cleric living in a Penn. compound is trying to bring down his government

Erdogan’s political opponents welcomed the court decision.

"It was impossible for a totalitarian regime to silence the technology," said Emrehan Halici, deputy head of the main opposition Republican People's Party.

"It was a shame to try to shut down Twitter. It has done nothing other than humiliate our country.

“More people than before have taken to Twitter after the ban."