Turkish Court Threatens to Ban Google Over Hostage Images

Washington, DC

A Turkish court threatened Google with a nationwide ban should the popular search engine fails to comply with its ruling against the publication of images showing a kidnapped prosecutor slain by a Marxist terror group last week.

The prosecutor died from injuries sustained during a hostage crisis in Istanbul.

On Tuesday, a Turkish official told Hurriyet Daily News that Google and YouTube had removed the images that the court deemed illegal.

Nevertheless, links to the photos showing the prosecutor as a hostage still appeared on the first page of Google search results as of noon on Tuesday.

BBC reports that the court lifted the threatened ban on Google after the world’s most popular search engine removed the links to sites hosting the images.

“Istanbul’s 1st Criminal Court of Peace notified Turkey’s Internet Service Providers Union (ESB) late April 6, ordering the body to block access to Google’s search engine and its video platform, YouTube, if they continue to link to or directly host images of slain prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz,” reports Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

“On 6 April, a Turkish court ordered the country’s net providers to cut off access to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more than 160 other sites that were letting people share the controversial images,” adds BBC. “They showed prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun held to his head by a masked attacker.”

Kiraz was reportedly taken hostage by two gunmen last week in a siege at an Istanbul court house. All three ended up dead.

“Two militants with alleged links to the outlawed far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) took Kiraz, the prosecutor in the controversial case of the killing of Gezi victim Berkin Elvan, hostage in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse on March 31,” explains Hurriyet. “He succumbed to his injuries in hospital after the eight-hour hostage drama, during which security forces killed the two captors.”

The gunmen reportedly took Kiraz hostage because he was heading an investigation into the death of a boy during anti-government protests in 2013.

In Turkey, the European Union, and the U.S., the DHKP-C is considered a terrorist group.

The Turkish court described the images of the prosecutor as “illegal content.”

According to Hurriyet, the court argued that blocking Google will be necessary, if the “illegal content” is not removed, “to preserve national security and public order, to stop crimes and to prevent citizens being victimized and harmed, while protecting their rights and freedoms.”

“Prior to the legal action, the images were circulating widely online and some newspapers printed them alongside articles about the siege,” BBC reports. “The publicity drew criticism from the Turkish government which said printing and sharing them was tantamount to ‘propaganda for the armed terrorist organization.’”

Turkish officials have taken a series of measures to restrict what it considers subversive use of online media. The bans on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, along with the threat against Google are just the latest example of such measures.

“Figures gathered by Twitter revealed that Turkey filed more requests to remove content from the messaging service that any other nation between July and December 2014,” notes BBC.

Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83