AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Jan 25 – A man accused of a worldwide cyberbullying racket that got young girls to pose naked before blackmailing them went on trial Wednesday in Amsterdam, saying he is innocent of the charges.
The defendant Aydin C. is suspected of forcing dozens of young women from as far as Britain, Canada, Norway and the United States into performing sex acts in front of their webcams.
“I deny all charges and will remain silent until my closing statement,” a defiant Aydin C. identified only by his first name because of Dutch privacy rules told judges at a high-security courthouse.
The 38-year-old Dutchman faces 72 charges including computer sex crimes such as making and storing of child pornography, blackmail, fraud and hard drug possession, prosecutors said.
Aydin C. is also wanted for trial in Canada in the case of teen Amanda Todd who committed suicide in October 2012 after being tormented by an anonymous cyberbully.
“He posed online as a young woman and established trust relationships with 34 young girls, eventually getting them to pose naked in front of a webcam,” Dutch public prosecution service spokesman Lars Stempher told reporters outside the courtroom.
Once Aydin C. obtained the images, his tone changed and he would start to threaten the girls, telling them he would show the images to parents, relatives and school friends if they did not do as told.
“This included performing sexual acts and in the end the girls became trapped in his web,” Stempher said.
Five gay men mainly in Australia were also lured in, when Aydin C. allegedly posed as a young boy and “eventually he threatened them that he would expose their sexuality, leading to blackmail.”
In one case, an amount of 1,000 euros ($1,100) was then paid into an account, the court heard.
Aydin C. used dozens of aliases like “Tyler Boo” and “Kelsy Rain” and employed different computer tricks, including a program to fool young girls into thinking they were chatting live to a girl of similar age.
Investigators found some 204,000 images on hard disks belonging to the accused, but prosecutors did not say what the images depicted.
Aydin C., who leaned back in his chair during the hearing, his long greying hair slicked back behind his ears, did not respond to questions posed by the judge.
He was arrested after Facebook rang alarm bells in 2013, telling Dutch police a “sextortionist” somebody who uses sex to blackmail others was at work in The Netherlands.
Canada has asked for Aydin C. to be extradited in the case of teen Amanda Todd who committed suicide in October 2012 after being tormented by an anonymous cyberbully.
“The notorious case, that of Amanda Todd regularly pops up in this case docket,” Judge Karel Brunner said.
“That case is not before the court today. Obviously the Canadian authorities are planning to prosecute,” the judge said.
A Dutch court in June last year ruled in favour of Aydin C.’s extradition to Canada to stand trial in connection with Todd’s death. The extradition case is under appeal before the Dutch highest Supreme Court.
The 15-year-old’s suicide sparked a worldwide debate about appropriate online behaviour, and prompted calls for cyberbullying to be criminalised.
In a YouTube video watched by millions worldwide, Todd said before her death that she suffered from anxiety, “major depression” and panic attacks after a photo of her breasts, flashed in an online video chat with a stranger, was distributed in her community.
If extradited, Aydin C. however will be sent to Canada only after the end of his trial in the Netherlands prosecutors said, meaning it could still take years.
Commenting on the Dutch case, Aydin C.’s lawyer Robert Malewicz told AFP outside the courtroom “we are disputing that there is a proper link between the evidence presented and my client.”
“We will ask for an acquittal,” he said.