The US justice system is “rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” says the family of American activist Aaron Swartz, who was an outspoken critic of the US government and was recently found dead in his apartment.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” said Swartz’s family in a statement.
Since Friday, when the activist and computer prodigy was found dead in his New York apartment, internet activists have also blamed the US Attorney's office.
Before his death, Swartz openly criticized the US and the Israeli regime for launching joint cyber attacks against Iran.
The blogger was also vocal in criticizing Obama’s “kill list,” a list of individuals who are suspected of terrorism by the US and are listed for targeted killing after final approval by the US president himself.
Swartz was also critical of the monopoly of information and believed that information should be available to everyone for the benefit of the society.
The US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts accused the 26-year-old of downloading millions of academic journal articles from the online service JSTOR by using Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s computer network in 2010, to make such articles available to the public.
Even though, Swartz handed over his hard drives and the charges against him were dropped by the JSTOR, US Attorneys Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann, with the support of MIT, continued to pursue the activist’s prosecution.
According to the statement by the activist's family, officials were demanding heavy penalties of more than 30 years in prison and up to USD 1.0 million in fines for Swartz, "to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."
The activist's death comes weeks before he was due in court.
A petition presented to the White House “for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz” has been set up to remove US Attorney Ortiz and it has already gained almost 10,000 signatures.