Programmer faces Greek jail over spam claims

Programmer faces Greek jail over spam claims

Summary: The Greek police have arrested a well known Swedish developer for sending spam, but he claims they have no evidence

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TOPICS: Security
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The Greek police have arrested a Swedish programmer, claiming that he advertised and sold pharmaceutical products on the Web, a police spokesperson confirmed to ZDNet UK on Friday.

But Rick Downes, the programmer in question, denied the charges and claimed that the Greek authorities have no evidence against him. He says that the only link between him and the spam appears to be that three people who had received the spam were using a computer that he had fixed at an earlier date.

Downes, who moved to the Greek province of Chania last year for medical reasons, was arrested by the police on 26 October, but immediately released from custody. He claimed that the only evidence the police brought to his house at the time of the arrest were a few print-outs of spam emails advertising pharmaceuticals.

The emails were sent by a large US-based advertising company and did not include the full header information, according to Downes. He said the police did not seem to be aware that this information was necessary to trace an email.

The police seized Downes' computer and sent it to their laboratories for further examination, but Downes claimed that he had not yet been asked to provide a key password.

"I have been told my computer is in Athens, supposedly the crime units are looking at it, but they haven't even asked for my administration password — they would need this to get into all the administration functionalities," said Downes.

The Greek police did not respond to a request for more details on what evidence they had against Downes, but confirmed that his computer had been seized and that a "preliminary investigation" was underway.

Downes is now worried that he may be thrown into jail, despite the apparent lack of evidence.

"We're totally terrified. If they can come and do what they've done, they can do anything," he said.

Downes is also bewildered about the case against him because he has campaigned against spam in the past — he is a member of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email and has a number of articles on his company's Web site about fighting spam.

This is not the first time that the Greek authorities have hit the headlines over the enforcement of laws around technology. In 2002, the Greek authorities passed a law banning all electronic games in an attempt to stamp out illegal gambling. The law resulted in several arrests and Internet cafes being closed down and was criticised by the European Commission.

The news on Downes' arrest was initially reported by Techdirt.

Topic: Security

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  • Of course, this isn't the first time we've heard about the Greek legal system being positively baffled by technology.

    Recently they have arrested an artist (Dimitrios Fotiou, www.fotiou.net) for his net.art project. I give you the links from Rhizome and The File Room:

    1. http://rhizome.org/thread.rhiz?thread=16472&page=1#31413
    2. http://www.thefileroom.org/documents/dyn/DisplayCase.cfm/id/952

    or look at his website:
    http://www.fotiou.net/DWG_press.html
    anonymous