Turkey keeps YouTube block despite court rulings

ISTANBUL Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:40pm IST

YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara March 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish authorities defied court orders and reaffirmed a ban on YouTube imposed after the posting of illicit recordings of top secret security talks that was cited by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as part of a "dirty campaign" to topple him.

Authorities imposed the ban on Google's (GOOG.O) video-sharing site on March 27 in the build-up to local elections, after weeks of leaked wiretaps which had emerged online, allegedly uncovering corruption in Erdogan's inner circle. Erdogan emerged from the polls with his popularity largely intact.

Turkey's telecoms regulator said on Thursday it would not end a block on YouTube, despite court rulings lifting the ban.

"The measure blocking access to the youtube.com internet site remains in place," the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) said in a statement on its website.

Access to Twitter (TWTR.N) had also been barred until the Constitutional Court ruled last week that this violated the law.

Erdogan accuses a U.S.-based Islamic cleric of using a network of supporters to orchestrate an internet campaign and a police corruption investigation to undermine him. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies any involvement and criticises Erdogan over a purge of his followers from state bodies.

Last Friday a lower court in Ankara ruled that the YouTube ban violated human rights and ordered most of the restrictions be lifted, citing the constitutional court ruling, and instead specifically blocked access to 15 videos.

Despite a prosecutor's challenge to lifting the ban, imposed on grounds of state security, a higher Ankara court also ruled on Wednesday in favour of removing the general block on YouTube.

However, the BTK said that while some of the offending links had been removed, access to others had only been blocked in Turkey and they could be viewed abroad.

It said the ban would remain place "because some of the said content continues to be available on the internet site."

The posting that triggered the ban was an illicit audio recording of a meeting of top security officials at the Foreign Ministry over possible military intervention in Syria. Erdogan condemned the recording as an act of treason.

Erdogan, who has been battling the graft scandal swirling around his government since a police investigation emerged in December, has said the constitutional court decision on Twitter was wrong and should be overturned.

(Writing by Daren Butler, editing by Jonny Hogg)

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