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Turkey's prime minister says he'll pursue Twitter for 'tax evasion'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan still has it in for the site, after it was used to spread information critical of him and after a Turkish court ruling led to a ban being lifted.


Turkey's prime minister seems to still be looking for a way to silence Twitter in his country, saying in a televised speech Saturday that the microblogging service is a tax evader and that his government will pursue it.

"Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are international companies established for profit and making money. Twitter is at the same time a tax evader. We will go after it," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to a report by news agency AFP. "These companies, like every international company, will abide by my country's constitution, laws, and tax rules."

Twitter was banned by Erdogan's government last month in a runup to elections, but the ban was later lifted after Turkey's supreme court ruled that it interfered with free speech and individual rights. The court also ordered that a YouTube ban be lifted (with 15 videos to remain inaccessible), but so far the government hasn't stopped blocking that site.

The bans have to do with posted content critical of Erdogan's government. Recordings surfaced on Twitter that allegedly captured Erdogan and his son in corrupt activities, discussing how to hide large sums of money. Erdogan called the recordings "fake."

And YouTube was shut down after the appearance of a recording that allegedly caught government officials talking about how to justify air strikes against Syria. Turkey's foreign ministry said the recording was manipulated and was a "first degree threat to national security," according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdogen said Saturday that the supreme court's decision on the Twitter ban "amounts to interference in politics" and advocates "commercial law of international companies instead of defending the rights of its own country and its own people."

AFP reports that Erdogen's remarks come a day after the court annulled a controversial clause in a law "giving the justice ministry greater control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors."

Earlier this week, Erdogen said the ruling on the Twitter ban " did not serve justice" and should be "corrected." And on Monday, Google announced that it had previously filed three petitions in Turkey in an attempt to overturn the YouTube ban, reportedly arguing that the block is "overbroad" and challenging it "based on freedom of speech."

In March, the White House issued a statement condemning Turkey's blockage of "access to basic communication tools." Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "We oppose this restriction on the Turkish people's access to information, which undermines their ability to exercise freedoms of expression and association and runs contrary to the principles of open governance that are critical to democratic governance." Carney also said the White House had conveyed its concerns to the Turkish government.

Twitter declined to comment on Erdogan's Saturday speech.