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Russian Tor Exit Node Operator Arrested

On April Fools Day, Russian authorities began an investigation into posts made online calling for protests in Moscow on April 2nd. Later that week authorities arrested Dmitry Bogatov, a math teacher at the Moscow Law and Finance University, on suspicion that he violated section 3 of Article 212 of the Russian criminal code. Under that section of Article 212, Bogatov faced anywhere from 2 months to 3 years in prison for inciting “mass riots”. Judge Evgeny Naidenov agreed with defense attorney Alexei Teptsov’s argument that the suspect should not remain in detention because the law does not recommend such detention for these specific charges.

Before ruling, Judge Yevgeny Naidenov asked prosecutors to clarify what charges they were making against Bogatov. The prosecution responded that they had not made any official charges against Bogatov, and that although the investigation began under section 3 of Article 212, they may decide to pursue other charges as well. Judge Naidenov ordered Bogatov released, provided that he did not leave the city. Bogatov left the courtroom in handcuffs and was sent to sign the necessary papers needed for his release. Instead of being released that day, Bogatov was sent to be interrogated by police late into the night. According to defense attorney Alexei Teptsov, Bogatov was now being investigated on terrorism charges under Article 205 of Russia’s criminal code.

Dmitry Bogatov is a free and open source software activist, as well as a vegan and a privacy rights advocate. Bogatov is a post-graduate of Moscow State University. While Dmitry describes his personal beliefs as anarchist/libertarian, his mother, Margarita Bogatova, told Meduza that Dmitry does not speak about or participate in politics or protests in public. Dmitry ran a Tor exit node from his home, even though the Tor Project generally advises against doing this. “In general, running an exit node from your home Internet connection is not recommended, unless you are prepared for increased attention to your home. In the USA, there have been no equipment seizures due to Tor exits, but there have been phone calls and visits. In other countries, people have had all their home computing equipment seized for running an exit from their home internet connection,” the Tor Project advises on its website.

Law enforcement around the world continue to not understand Tor and harass those who operate Tor exit nodes. Last April in the United States, a couple in Seattle, Washington, who also ignored the advice of the Tor Project and operated an exit node from their home, had their home raided by law enforcement and had their electronic devices searched. Seattle police found no child pornography on any of the exit node operators electronic devices, and no property was seized and no arrests were made.

According to Meduza, on April 8th Judge Naidenov extended Dmitry Bogatov’s detention for three more days, while law enforcement continued to gather evidence against Bogatov. At a hearing on April 10th, Judge Naidenov granted the prosecution’s request told hold Bogatov in custody for two months. During that hearing Bogatov pled not guilty, and stated that he was willing to cooperate with authorities. “I am innocent. On the day mentioned in the charges I was in a fitness club together with my wife. After that I went shopping,” Bogatov said at the hearing. Bogatov’s attorney submitted surveillance camera footage from the fitness club and the supermarket Bogatov was at during the time on March 29th when the messages calling for a protest in Moscow were posted. Dmitry was shopping for food with his wife Tatiana, a genetic biologist.

The messages calling for a protest were made by someone who calls themselves Airat Bashirov. Bashirov has continued to make posts on the forums at sysadmin.ru during the time Dmitry Bogatov has been in police custody. According to The Pirate Times, Airat Bashirov’s last post to the website was on April 11th. Dmitry Bogatov for now will remain in police custody until at least June 8th.

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