Inconsistencies have emerged in the allegations of rape and sexual assault against American Internet activist Jacob Appelbaum. Reporting by the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT shows there is considerable doubt about the veracity of the claims.
A victim going by the pseudonym "River" claimed anonymously a few weeks ago that hacker Jacob Appelbaum had sex with her in his Berlin apartment while she had been unconscious. She had not consented because, she claimed, there had also been other people in the room. DIE ZEIT tracked down the young woman, an American, and has also spoken with eight witnesses who were present in the days and nights in January 2016 in which it has been claimed the crime was committed. The witnesses, can neither confirm that "River" was drugged nor that non-consensual sex occurred.
For the first time, Jacob Appelbaum has spoken out about the allegations in an interview. He told ZEIT that as a person in a leadership role, he made many mistakes and hurt people, and he is willing to accept responsibility for this. Nevertheless, he said, the statements from "River" were completely fabricated. "At no point did I have sex with someone who was unconscious. Nor did I have sex with someone who was in any way intoxicated in order to obtain consent." The alleged victim did not want to comment on Appelbaum’s claim.
At the beginning of June 2016, unidentified individuals posted several specific instances on a website in which they anonymously accused Jacob Appelbaum of having sexually, emotionally, physically abused them. River’s story also appeared on the page.
However, another supposed victim now alleges the website that published the accusations wrote down her account against her will, and heavily manipulated it prior to publication. "I am not a victim of Jacob Appelbaum," she told ZEIT. Shortly after its publication, the person responsible for the page had to delete it again. The story is still listed on the page as a "placeholder."
Appelbaum was a developer and the most well-known employee of the anonymity network Tor (The Onion Router). The Tor Project parted ways with Appelbaum after the allegations became public. An internal Tor investigation into the incidents came to the conclusion two weeks ago that several had been subjected to "unwanted sexually aggressive behavior" by Appelbaum, but there is no mention of rape. So far, there have been no reports of charges by victims or investigations by police or public prosecutors against Appelbaum.
Next to Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, Appelbaum is one of the most prominent data privacy and anti-surveillance activists globally. Together with journalists at Der Spiegel, he uncovered three years ago how German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone had been tapped. Appelbaum lives in exile in Berlin.
(Translation: Daryl Lindsey)