DRAFT - DO NOT LINK OR PUBLISH IN ANY OTHER WAY
This is my take on the Forskningsavdelningen issue. If you are comfortable with sending this out on behalf of the Metalab, let's do so. If not, or if the discussion has not come to a conclusion before Saturday, December 5, 12:00, I will remove all references to 'we-as-members' and publish it as a personal statement of support. كِرا
On November 28th, the police conducted a raid on a suspected illegal nightclub in Malmö. The official reason for the operation was that they suspected the club, which arranged a punk concert that evening, to sell alcoholic beverages without permission. And the police did indeed find and seize some beer, wine, and booze there, as well as a few other personal belongings that are not too surprising at a punk concert (firecrackers, pepper spray, etc.) Details can be found in the police's official press release.
So far, so unexciting.
What the press release fails to mention is that the police also raided the premises of another organisation that had nothing to do with the nightclub, other than being located in the same building: the hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen.
Forskningsavdelningen is a hackerspace - a place for people with in an interest in technology to share knowledge and work together. What does this organisation, located on a different floor, have to do with a suspected illegal club organised by a different organisation? Not much, it would seem.
Okay, so maybe it was bad luck that they were raided. Less than perfect intelligence on behalf of the police. Embarrassing, but no big deal.
Except that the police actually confiscated six computers, a WiFi router, and other valuable technical equipment from Forskningsavdelningen - and now want to raise charges of "preparation for Grand Theft" and "IT intrusion".
The grounds for the charge of preparation for Grand Theft is that the equipment in the hackerspace included two key copying machines and a collection of lock picking tools. According to the police, this indicates that a burglary was planned. Similarly, the presence of a "special antenna to receive wireless signals over long distance" is used to justify the suspicion of IT intrusion.
All of these tools are perfectly legal to own and operate - unless of course they are actually used for illegal purposes. A knife can be used to cut a steak or to stab somebody. If I own a knife, does that indicate that I am planning an assault?
Owning an antenna - even a "special", modified antenna - does not indicate an intention to commit a crime. It indicates an interest in wireless transmission, and may in fact be the first prototype of tomorrow's technology.
What about lock picking? Same thing. Lock picking is a sport practised by official clubs all over Europe. In addition to the edification of their members, these clubs provide a valuable service to the public by demonstrating the security flaws in common locks. Participation in this sport is no more a preparation for burglary than sport shooting is a preparation for murder.
We are deeply concerned by this disregard of the most basic legal right - the presumption of innocence. We are worried by the fact that the open, critical study of technology is used as grounds for accusing innocent people.
As members of the Metalab, a hackerspace in Vienna, Austria, we express our solidarity with our friends in Sweden. We join them in demanding the return of all seized equipment and we sincerely hope that this whole affair will turn out to be a misunderstanding rather than an intentional interference with the rights of innocent citizens.
To restore the principle of legal certainty and avoid similar mistakes in the future, we strongly recommend a full investigation of the raid (its reasons and actual execution) as well as the legal grounds (or lack thereof) of raising charges based on the possession of legal equipment.
About the Metalab:
[insert one paragraph about us here]