Q&A: Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan's troubles

Person holding phone with Twitter blank page open, against Turkish flag backdrop (21 March) Image copyright Reuters

Turkey has blocked the social networking site Twitter following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's vow to "wipe out" the service.

He has frequently expressed his dislike of social media sites - including YouTube and Facebook - believing they are being used to attack him.

However, the Twitter ban has drawn widespread criticism, including from Turkish President Abdullah Gul who tweeted his disagreement.

But Mr Erdogan's troubles go far beyond social media. He is also facing allegations of corruption and is embroiled in a feud with a former ally.

Here's a look at some of the battles he is currently fighting.

Image copyright AFP

Why is Mr Erdogan banning Twitter?

Last month, an audio recording posted on an anonymous Twitter account appeared to show Mr Erdogan talking to his son about hiding large sums of money.

Mr Erdogan denounced it as a fake.

"I don't care what the international community says at all. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic," Mr Erdogan said on Thursday.

However, millions of Turkish internet users continued to access Twitter, using proxy servers and other means. Twitter itself posted instructions, while in Istanbul, graffiti appeared with details of how to sidestep the ban.

Image copyright @kadikoybaska
Image caption DNS details that could be used to bypass the ban were spray-painted on to a wall in Istanbul

Many of the prime minister's harshest critics have used Twitter to co-ordinate protests against him and circulate damaging information.

A law passed last month tightens government controls on the internet, allowing the Turkish authorities to block websites without first seeking a court ruling.

It will also force internet providers to store data on web users' activities for two years and make it available to the authorities.

The opposition and human rights organisations have criticised the move as an assault on freedom of expression.

The BBC also expressed concern after a reporter for BBC Turkish was attacked on social media by the mayor of Ankara.

Protesters and politicians defy Turkey's Twitter ban

Turkey tightens internet controls

BBC reporters 'intimidated' by Turkey

What are the allegations of corruption?

The recorded phone call posted on Twitter appears to show Mr Erdogan asking his son Bilal to dispose of millions of euros in cash from a house.

Mr Erdogan says the allegations are a plot by his enemies to oust him.

In December, three Turkish government ministers resigned after their sons were taken into custody by police investigating allegations of bribery for construction projects.

All three sons were later released.

One of the ministers later said a great number of the construction projects had been approved by Mr Erdogan himself and he called on the prime minister to resign.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption These political opponents of Mr Erdogan threw fake euro notes in the air at a demonstration after the disputed recording appeared on Twitter

Erdogan's private phone call goes viral

Turkish ministers resign amid scandal

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

Once an ally of Mr Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar who founded an influential social and cultural network which now includes more than 900 schools in Turkey.

Mr Gulen himself has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999.

Followers of his Hizmet movement - whose name means "service" - are said to hold senior positions in the Turkish police, the judiciary and Mr Erdogan's AK Party itself.

However, Mr Gulen's critics believe Hizmet's aim is to gain power, to spread socially conservative Islamic attitudes on issues like marriage and alcohol around the globe, and to suppress any opposition.

Mr Erdogan has accused him of running a "state within a state" - an accusation he denies.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Erdogan (left) and Mr Gulen were once allies

In December, Turkish pro-government media claimed prosecutors with ties to Mr Gulen had illegally wiretapped thousands of prominent figures.

Targets reportedly included government ministers and business leaders.

The claims were published a few hours ahead of the leaked recording said to be of Mr Erdogan.

Profile: Fethullah Gulen's Hizmet movement

Turkey prosecutors 'tapped phones'

Mr Erdogan faced major street protests last year - what were those about?

The anger which led to last year's protests flared up again recently, with the news of the death of a 15-year-old boy who had been in a coma since last June.

Berkin Elvan was on his way to buy bread when he was hit on the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.

Mr Erdogan said the boy had links to "terrorist organisations".

His death brought the toll from last year's unrest to at least eight, including one policeman.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There were renewed protests after the death of Berkin Elvan, injured in last year's anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul

The protests began over plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park into a new mosque and shopping centre, but escalated into national demonstrations against what opponents see as Mr Erdogan's growing authoritarianism.

Erdogan and the 'foreign plot'

Erdogan accuses boy of 'terrorist links'

What does this mean for Mr Erdogan and for Turkey?

For many years, Mr Erdogan was held up as the role model for the leaders of Muslim countries, at ease with democracy and a pluralistic society. He has now been in power for 11 years. His critics say he is becoming increasingly autocratic.

Turkey is a member of Nato and is formally a candidate to join the European Union. European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes took to Twitter to voice her disappointment at the Twitter ban: "The Twitter ban in #Turkey is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is."

Image copyright Other

The German government also criticised the ban, as did the US-based research and pressure group Human Rights Watch, which called it a "fundamental blow to freedom of expression".

Mr Erdogan is likely to shrug off criticism from his foreign critics. But local elections are due to take place on 30 March, and the Turkish prime minister will have no choice but to listen to the voters' verdict.

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