When we reported early yesterday that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan warned that since Twitter had ignored court orders to remove content related to a government corruption scandal., that he would "destroy Twitter" and that "we'll dig up Twitter - all of them - from the roots," he raged, "they'll see the power of the Republic of Turkey" it may not have been quite clear what he meant. A few hours later it was revealed, when virtually all Twitter access was blocked in Turkey ten days ahead of the general election in a move that has already enraged the nation and resulted in a powerful public outcry.
Bloomberg reports that the "tweets targeted by the premier are from two anonymous users: one going by the name of Haramzadeler, a phrase translated by Turkish media as “Sons of Thieves” though it could also mean “bastard,” and another called Bascalan, or "Prime Thief." The person or persons have been leaking documents and audio files, some described as the results of a 15-month prosecutor-led investigation into corruption in Erdogan’s government. The leaks have captured the attention of Turkey’s 74 million citizens as the prime minister prepares for local elections on March 30. Zero Hedge reported on the leaks one month ago, which revealed that the PM and his sons were scrambling to hide their stolen money from the local prosecution during an anti-corruption raid in late 2013.
The leaks also call into question everything from the financial probity of ministers to their religious piety, and provide evidence of a media browbeaten by the government. That’s enlivened the opposition and put Erdogan on the defensive amid public allegations of graft involving the premier’s family and businessmen who’ve profited during his 11 years in power.
Turkey’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Board, or BTK, said Twitter had been blocked upon “complaints from our citizens” and “violations of personal rights and privacy,” according to a statement on its website today.
“The Internet site called Twitter has ignored decisions made by the courts of the Republic of Turkey,” the board said in the statement. “Left with no other choice to prevent the incompensable victimization of our citizens, a preventive measure blocking access to Twitter has been imposed in line with court decisions.”
Of course, the sheer idiocy of hoping to spread information by blocking one medium needs no commentary. What is worse for the embattled corrupt PM, however, is that worse revelations are coming.
Local media has reported that the most damaging leaks were yet to come. In a column in Yeni Safak newspaper yesterday, Hayrettin Karaman, a retired professor of Islamic law, pre-emptively denied the validity of a tape he said would be aired, showing him advising Erdogan on whether Islam would permit him to order the killing of politician Muhsin Yazicioglu, who died in a helicopter crash on March 25, 2009.
Yesterday, a prominent Turkish news anchorwoman denied rumors of a sexual affair with the prime minister. The pro-government media had been warning this week that new leaks would use “Hollywood” technology including silicon masks to make actors look like recognizable Turkish personalities.
While the original investigation stalled after prosecutors were removed, laws changed and thousands of police officers transferred, some of the files leaked from “Haramzadeler” have been incorporated into parliamentary record by the opposition.
As for the explanations from Erdogan, they have long since moved beyond the merely ridiculous:
Speaking across Turkey, Erdogan has dismissed one recording as a “montage,” described another as “natural” and said the entire investigation is backed by “foreign powers” and spearheaded by followers of a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The latter has denied the allegations.
Regardless, the leaks are set to go on.
In a message on Twitter on March 19, “Haramzadeler” promised the leaks would continue until municipal elections and beyond.
“These publications will continue not just until March 30, but until Turkey sees the whole truth,” according to the post.
And since Turkey will certainly not stop at just Twitter, here is what is coming next: "Last week, Erdogan said the country could also block Facebook and YouTube." One wonders how long until other despotic regimes - the Eurozone comes to mind - encourage Erdogan and decide to adopt some of his more radical measures.