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Toronto researcher and internet freedom activist charged with sexual assault

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi, co-director of an organization that monitors internet controls in Iran and how to bypass them, has also been charged with forcible confinement.

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi outside the Ontario Court of Justice on Tuesday.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi outside the Ontario Court of Justice on Tuesday.

A high-profile Toronto researcher and internet freedom activist has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement.

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi, who is the co-director of ASL19, an organization that monitors internet controls in Iran and how to bypass them, was in court this week at Old City Hall. Police have not released details of the case, which is under a publication ban.

Bangi has pleaded not guilty, according to his lawyer, Wayne Cunningham.

“As this matter is before the courts, it is not appropriate to comment on the specifics,” Cunningham wrote in an email.

Bangi has been co-director of ASL19 since 2012, according to a LinkedIn profile that has since been taken down. He's the second high-profile hacker with ties to Citizen Lab to face sex-assault allegations this fall.

The lab, which is part of U of T's Munk School of Global Affairs, cut ties with Morgan Marquis-Boire in October after learning of an allegation that coincided with a Citizen Lab event in 2014. The complainant in that case did not pursue legal action. Marquis-Boire did not respond to Metro's request for comment about these allegations.

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U of T distanced itself from Karimzadeh Bangi when contacted by Metro earlier this week. ASL19 has collaborated with Citizen Lab on research projects in the past and allowed its staff, including Karimzadeh Bangi, to make use of its facilities in 2012-14, university spokeswoman Erin Lemon said in an email.

"Citizen Lab has not recently engaged in any such efforts with either ASL19 or Mr. Bangi," she said, calling ASL19 a “completely separate and distinct organization."

Lemon did not respond when asked if the university had received sexual-assault complaints about Karimzadeh Bangi.

Karimzadeh Bangi is a former software engineer from the University of Iran who became a “champion of free expression for his former fellow citizens” there, according to a 2013 Toronto Star article that identified ASL19 as part of Citizen Lab and Karimzadeh Bangi as a PhD candidate at U of T.

ASL19 was nominated in 2014 for the Human Rights Tulip, a prestigious international award given out by the Dutch government.

Karimzadeh Bangi was charged with sexual assault and one count of administered drug in 2009. The charges were withdrawn at the request of the Crown, his lawyer said.

This story has been corrected from an earlier version to reflect the fact that Karimzadeh Bangi was not an employee of Citizen Lab

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