During the first few days of the hearing at the Limburg District Court, the four men accused of running or moderating the Elysium darknet forum claimed they had no interest in children and that they participated out of technical interest. Some of the defendants made claims that sounded outlandish to both the public and the prosecution.
A 58-year-old man from Baden-Württemberg allegedly built a chatroom on the darknet for pedophiles that he, along with another defendant, converted into Elysium in December 2016. The man told the court that he had created the chatroom but was unaware of the massive amount of child abuse content that the users of the chatroom had been sharing with other members. He said he was interested only in the “technical side” of the creation. However, once it hit roughly 100,000 members, he needed help keeping the platform stable. He reached out to the accused admin of the forum, a 40-year-old family man from Bad Camberg.
The Bad Camberg man (the one caught with the server in his garage) allegedly helped the 58-year-old man stabilize the structure. He said that he spoke with the creator fine roughly one hour every day. The 40-year-old used the username “Berndinihr” on the forum, the prosecution had previously revealed. The man said that he had joined Elysium and other child abuse/child pornography forums in order to obtain data for the police. The court pointed out that as of his arrest in June 2017, the alleged administrator had not spoken with law enforcement about the forums or otherwise.
A 57-year-old man from Franconia told the court that he had joined the forum moderation team for the same reasons the forum creator had created the forum: an interest in the “technical side” of the operation. He admitted that he had shared illegal content but that he did so primarily out of interest in the forum backed.
The final defendant—another alleged moderator—told the court his several reasons for using the forum. The man, a now 62-year-old from the Bavarian Landsberg am Lech with child abuse convictions from ten years ago, said that technical interest was what had driven his work as a moderator. He said that he also liked discussing his problems with other pedophiles as a way of “sharing the suffering.” He also told the court that he had no need for the child abuse content found on Elysium because he had a large collection at home. He denied the new child abuse charge connected to the sexual assault of one of his friend’s children.
Only four days in and the trial has proven to be an eye-opener.