German Police searches Tor-supporters Zwiebelfreunde on flimsy bases

Op-ed by Taziden, member of La Quadrature du Net

On 20 June, searches were carried out1 at the homes of several board members of the German association "Zwiebelfreunde". All their computers and storage media (hard drives, USB keys) were seized by the German police.

The reason? These three people are supposedly "witnesses" in an ongoing investigation into a blog calling for anti-fascist protests in Augsbourg, in Germany. The Police consider that this blog calls for violent actions.

And the link between this blog and Zwiebelfreunde? Hold onto your hat. The email address associated with the blog is hosted by the American organisation Riseup. And Zwiebelfreunde collects donations on Riseup's account. It's hard to imagine Google's hardware being seized by the Police if the people behind the blog had chosen Gmail.

It's a bit as if La Quadrature du Net's offices, as well as the homes of its leaders, had ben searched because of an account created on mamot.fr, La Quadrature's Mastodon instance.
It doesn't make sense.

This is clearly an attack on Zwiebelfreunde, which for years has been promoting and facilitating the use of privacy-protecting tools such as those of the Tor project. It helps collect funds for these projects, in this case Riseup.
The money raised by Zwiebelfreunde is used in particular to develop the tools and services provided by Riseup, to reimburse travel expenses and to maintain RiseUp's Tor infrastructure.

Searches also took place at the association's headquarters, which happen also to be a lawyer's office, as well as at a former leader's home. It is hard to understand such a use of the police, and such an intrusion into the private lives of people considered to be "witnesses".

Not content with these raids, the Police took it upon themselves to extend their search to the Augsbourg hackerspace, OpenLab2. Interpreting the content of a whiteboard as describing the creation of a bomb (sic), three persons then present at the hackerspace were arrested and then the place was searched.
Police seized hardware and forced the padlocks of the hackerspace's cabinets, which contain personal information about its members. There is no doubt that this data was copied by the police.
The charges of “preparing an attack using explosives” seems as ridiculous as the label of “witness” used for Zwiebelfreunde's leaders.

As has been the case these recent months in Bure 3, the German Police seem to make light of individual freedoms, favouring fierce repression against social movements and any person and organisations that might support them, or who provide independent infrastructure which makes it possible to organise.

This trend is worrisome and shows that it is more important than ever to support initiatives providing tools and services which make it possible to organise autonomously. Riseup, Tor, Tails, or Nos Oignons come to mind, but also Mastodon, Funkwhale, Peertube, Pixelfed and the entire wave of new decentralized and federated tools that will surely be next on the Police's list, out of either incompetence or malice.