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Turkey Blocks Twitter As Beleaguered Prime Minister Erdogan Acts On Threat To 'Show Strength'

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The Turkish prime minister has moved to silence anti-government protesters responsible for multiple demonstrations in recent weeks following the death of Elvan Berkin by blocking access to the micro-blogging site Twitter.

Beleaguered leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose main support comes from the country’s conservative Islamic community, threatened to close access to the social network in a speech on Thursday. At midnight (local time), access to the popular communication tool stopped, with PC users, confronted with a notice from Turkey's telecommunications authority citing court orders, forced to use a virtual private network (VPN) to gain access to their accounts. No access was available for mobile users.

According to the FT, the company quickly responded to the prohibition by advising Turkish users on how to use text messages to get around the ban. According to AP, Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler said the social network was looking into the outage.

The move by Erdogen comes ahead of local elections on March 30, followed by parliamentary elections, the build up to which has been dogged by allegations of fraud and corruption. Recordings have been published on Twitter and across other social networks in recent weeks showing the prime minister affecting decision outside the purview of his office.

Addressing a campaign rally in Bursa, the embattled PM told supporters: "We now have a court order. We will wipe out Twitter… I don't care what the international community says. They will see the Turkish republic's strength.” According to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the government has accused Twitter officials of ignoring court rulings demanding they remove links.

A press advisory printed in the newspaper read: "[In Erdogan's speech] it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might be no remedy but to block access in order to relief our citizens."

Speaking to HuffPostUK by email, Can Esat Yalkin, a 28-year-old freelance photographer from Istanbul, speculated that more revelations about corruption in the Erdogan government were imminent, so the PM moved to stop the distribution by one of the main social media channels. Yalkin added: "There is a #TwitterİçinSokağaÇıkıyoruz hashtag, which means we are going out streets for Twitter but I think this hashtag was created by the government to provoke people. But people who don't support government will stay calm and not be provoked."

Following are pictures of recent clashes between anti-Government protesters and police following the burial of Elvan Berkin:

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    Protestors clean their eyes after police fired flee tear gas during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    Protestors flee tear gas during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to mourn a teenage boy who died from injuries suffered in last year's anti-government protests.
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    Protestors flee tear gas during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    Protestors flee tear gas during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A protestor throws a stone onto a police van during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A riot policemen shoots at a gas canister thrown back by protestors during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    Protestors gesture as they stand behind a barricade during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    Protestors wearing gas masks walk amid smoke during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A woman tries to protect her baby from tear gas during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    A boy protects a girl as riot police attacks protestors during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    A protestor runs past a police van during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to mourn a teenage boy who died from injuries suffered in last year's anti-government protests.
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    Police stand in line during clashes with demonstrators after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    People run away from tear gas and water cannon during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    People run away from tear gas and water cannon during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
  • Getty Images
    People run away from tear gas and water cannon during clashes between riot-police and prostestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    Police use water cannon to disperse protestors during Berkin Elvan`s funeral on March 12, 2014 in istanbul.
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    A protestors wearing a gas mask takes cover with his shield during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A protester is affected by tear gas during clashes with police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to mourn a teenage boy who died from injuries suffered in last year's anti-government protests.
  • Getty Images
    People run from tear gas during the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    Police use water cannon to disperse protestors during Berkin Elvan`s funeral on March 12, 2014 in istanbul.
  • Getty Images
    Police use water cannon to disperse protestors during Berkin Elvan`s funeral on March 12, 2014 in istanbul.
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    Riot police use tear gas to disperse protestors during Berkin Elvan`s funeral on March 12, 2014 in istanbul.
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    Thousands of people attend the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests, in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.
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    Protestors take cover behind a barricade during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
  • Getty Images
    Riot police uses tear gas to disperse protestors during clashes after the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    Riot police uses water cannons against protesters during clashes at the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    Protestors use fire works to police during clashes with riot police at the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A policeman fires tear gas to protesters during clashes with riot police at the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.
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    A policeman fires rubber bullets to protesters during clashes with riot police at the funeral of Berkin Elvan on March 12, 2014 in Istanbul.

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