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"Hackers" face prison in Turkey's first ever trial of suspected cyber criminals

Several members of a Turkish Marxist hacker collective are standing trial in Ankara today, charged with terrorism.
Turkish prosecutor wants 24 year prison sentences for redhack hackersEnlarge
A tag used by RedHack to deface websites to which the organization has gained access. (Screengrab/Screengrab)

Several members of a Turkish Marxist hacker collective are standing trial in Ankara today on charges of terrorism in the country’s first ever prosecution of alleged cyber criminals.

Those on trial face up to 24 years in prison.

The Turkish hacker collective, RedHack, claimed responsibility for bringing down the website belonging to the central Turkish police earlier this year. After the attack, Turkish authorities made several arrests of individuals suspected of taking part in the strike.

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Shortly after the arrests, RedHack declared that the individuals taken into custody had no association with the group. After releasing the statement, the collective brought down several other police websites in an attempt to prove that the group was still operating in light of what RedHack believed to be the arrest of innocent individuals. 

“The most significant of these attacks is the one that has been levied against innocent people who have no links to Redhack. These people, who have shared information on social media about these actions, are now held for ransom, solely in order to demoni[z]e Redhack and cut their support,” read a post on the collective’s website.

Those arrested in suspicion of the attacks are mostly students who deny having the technical skills required to carry out such a hack.

“Hacking requires high-level computer skills, yet I don’t know any hacking. I don’t even have any programs for hacking in my computer. If I had had such computer skills, I wouldn’t have studied two-year vocational college for five years,” said one suspect, Duygu Kerimoğlu to the Turkish English language news outlet Hürriyet Daily News.

The Turkish government may have linked RedHack to several Kurdish nationalist organizations operating within Turkey such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish region, is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the United States and the European Union as well as several other countries. 

The collective makes no claims to direct involvement with the PKK.

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“It has been determined that [RedHack] has lent support to Marxist, Leninist, Maoist, leftist and separatist terrorist organizations...hence, even though they are not members of those terrorist organizations, RedHack members can be considered to have perpetrated crimes in the name of those organizations,” read the official indictment of the suspected hackers.

The collective makes no claims to direct involvement with the PKK.

Founded 15 years ago, RedHack’s goals are to protect the rights of the Turkish working class by battling what the organization calls Turkish fascism. 

“RedHack is the force of proletariat of Turkey and the World in the fields of technology, attack, defence and development. RHA consists of experts working in information technology and communication. RHA’s philosophy is based on the ideology of working class and the people’s common struggle. This is the Marxist dialectic,” read a manifesto on the collective’s website

Turkey’s first prosecution of alleged cyber criminals, the crackdown appears to be more of an extension of the country's stance against Kurdish nationalism and the PKK rather than an effort to stop hackers operating in Turkey. The use of Marxist jargon by RedHack has further enabled Turkish authorities to link the organization to the PKK. 

While the PKK’s founder, Abdullah Öcalan, has written of his abandonment of Marxism from prison in 2007, Turkish authorities still associate Kurdish nationalism with revolutionary socialism.

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