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Turkey Twitter ban lifted by authorities after court ruled it ‘breached freedom of expression’

Full access to the site will be restored in a matter of hours, officials said

The Turkish government has lifted its ban on Twitter after a court ruled that doing so breached people’s freedom of expression, according to officials and local media reports.

A spokesperson for the prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said it could take a couple of hours to restore full access to the website, but users quickly began reporting that they could successfully tweet from within the country.

Twitter was blocked by the authorities on 21 March, with YouTube following suit a week later. The video sharing site remained offline on Thursday afternoon.

“The ban has been lifted,” the official from Mr Erdogan's office said, after a day in which the Constitutional Court ruling had put irresistible pressure on the government to back down on its attempt to “root out” the network.

It had been claimed that in the run-up to local elections last Sunday a stream of leaked recordings of senior officials had been shared on the site.

Following the court's decision, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, who has opposed the bans, was quoted as saying both websites should be made available in the country once more. San Francisco-based Twitter said in a tweet that it welcomed the ruling.

Within minutes of the ban being lifted, the micro-blogging site was flooded with messages, with one user saying “Welcome back to Twitter, Turkey.”

Erdogan's critics had said the ban was the latest in a series of authoritarian measures to crush a corruption scandal that had grown into one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule.

Tech-savvy Turks quickly found workarounds, with internet analysts reporting a surge in tweets since the ban was imposed, but the issue had become a tug-of-war between Erdogan's administration and the microblogging site.

The US State Department had responded to the court ruling by urging Ankara to respect the decision and end the block.

Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the leaked tapes - which point to wrongdoing by officials and members of his inner circle - as fabrication, and part of a political plot against him.

His Islamist-rooted AK Party emerged far ahead of rival parties in municipal elections on Sunday that had become a referendum on his rule.

Additional reporting by Reuters