News / Toronto

Toronto researcher leaves internet freedom organization after sex assault charge

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi has resigned from ASL19, which monitors internet controls in Iran and how to bypass them, according to a statement released by the organization on Friday.

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi outside Old City Hall Ontario Court of Justice, Tuesday, November 21, 2017.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi outside Old City Hall Ontario Court of Justice, Tuesday, November 21, 2017.

A high-profile Toronto researcher and internet freedom activist has resigned from the organization he helped start after being charged with sexual assault.

Ali Karimzadeh Bangi, 42, was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement, in March 2016, according to court records at Old City Hall.

He appeared briefly in court on Tuesday. Karimzadeh Bangi's lawyer says he is innocent of both charges.

Until Friday he was the co-director of ASL19, an organization that monitors internet controls in Iran and how to bypass them. After Metro reported on the charges, the organization released a statement cutting ties.

"On Nov 21, 2017, we learned that Ali K Bangi appeared in court on a charge of sexual assault. We are deeply disturbed by this and take all reports of sexual assault very seriously, " reads a statement signed by Anna May and Fereidoon Bash of ASL19.

"Immediately upon learning about the court appearance, we met with Mr. Bangi about the accusations which gave rise to the charge. At the conclusion of that meeting, Mr. Bangi resigned from ASL19."

They did not respond to a request for further comment, but the statement added they have revoked Bangi's access to ASL19's communication channels and are "unable to conduct an investigation" without more details. The case is under a publication ban.

The organization and Karimzadeh Bangi collaborated with UofT's Citizen Lab on research projects between 2012-2014, and allowed its staff to use facilities, university spokeswoman Erin Lemon said in an email to Metro earlier this week.

"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."

She added Bangi has never been an employee of Citizen Lab,which is part of U of T's Munk School of Global Affairs.

The lab cut ties with Morgan Marquis-Boire, another well known researcher in the field, 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.

Karimzadeh Bangi's next court appearance is scheduled for February 12 2018.

May Warren can be reached at may.warren@metronews.ca and found on Twitter at @maywarren11

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