Russian Tor Relay Operator Facing Terrorism Charges

The Russian police have arrested Tor node operator Dmitry Bogatov. They charged him with terrorism offense and the reason for this, as they claim, is the connection between his IP address and a series of posts allegedly inciting dissent and disorder.

Bogatov, a mathematics lecturer at Moscow’s Finance and Law University was arrested on April 6, and the privacy activists are calling it a “gross misunderstanding.”

The Russian authorities claim that Bogatov is the man responsible for at least two posts left on sysadmins.ru, wherein one of them, he encouraged the protestors and called for a riot with “rags, bottles, gas, turpentine, styrofoam, and acetone.” This post was left under the alias “Airat Bashirov,” and the protest in question was an unsanctioned anti-corruption rally.

In another post left by the same “Airat Bashirov,” a video by Kanye West was involved. The video that’s called “No Church In The Wild” was used to invoke “insubordination to the legal demands of the police, and mass disorder,” as claimed by the police investigators.

After linking these posts to Bogatov’s property, the police arrested him for “public calls for terrorist activity.” On the other hand, Bogatov uses that server to maintain one of Tor network’s exit nodes, which means that anyone in the world could have used it and, for a time, take on its address.

For those who don’t know, the Tor network is created in a way that sends user’s data around the world through multiple relays. This is done in order to protect the user’s privacy by sending it through enough relays to make any connection of the original user to the data impossible.

When you enter a website while using Tor, the website takes only the exit node as your IP address, which means that Bogatov’s IP address being associated with the posts and the website itself proves nothing, and especially not that he was the one who used it.

As for “Airat Bashirov,” whoever this person is, has made steps to verify that he’s in fact not Bogatov. These measures include interaction with one of the Russian journalists, as well as further posting on the forum. Furthermore, Bogatov has an excellent alibi, since he was caught on a CCTV footage in the supermarket with his wife just four minutes before one of the posts appeared.

Despite this, Bogatov was not released from custody. Human rights activists are now suspecting him of being held because of his work on open source and privacy software, reports DailyDot.

Access Now and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has stated that running a Tor exit node is not a crime, nor should the operators be treated as criminals. They’ve also condemned Bogatov’s continued detention, as well as others in similar situation.

In order to raise situation awareness, #FreeBogatov campaign is raging online, and the statements were given by both Tor and Debian in which they demand that Bogatov is not a criminal. Bogatov’s court date remains on June 8.

Ali Raza

Ali is a freelance journalist, having 5 years of experience in web journalism and marketing. He contributes to various online publications. With a master degree, now he combines his passions for writing about internet security and technology. When he is not working, he loves traveling and playing games.