After Alexey Pertsev was detained, campaigners worried that holding developers accountable for their malicious use could be dangerous, chilling.
More than 50 people gathered in Amsterdam’s Dam Square on Saturday to protest the arrest of blockchain developer Alexey Pertsev, who was arrested on August 10 on suspicion of involvement in the Tornado Cash protocol. sanctioned by US authorities earlier this month.
The 29-year-old was detained just two days after the US Treasury Department froze Tornado, a virtual currency mixer it said was used by North Korean hackers. After a closed-door hearing on August 12, a examining judge agreed to detain him for two weeks. A press release issued by the Dutch financial crime agency FIOD said the arrest was “on suspicion of being involved in the concealment of criminal financial flows and the facilitation of money laundering” through service, which can obfuscate the source and destination of funds passing through it.
While the system can be used to bury proceeds of crime, it also has legitimate applications. Dutch authorities did not specify which law Pertsev was accused of breaking. Different press releases and statements have offered different explanations. Pertsev himself has yet to be charged with any wrongdoing, so protesters have been reluctant to comment on legal matters. However, many are worried about what Pertsev’s arrest will mean for the future of Web3 and are aware of the chilling impact on the Dutch blockchain ecosystem.
“It’s a case where crypto fundamentals are being called into question,” Roman Buzko of law firm Buzko Krasnov told CoinDesk at the rally. The case concerns “whether the code is an expression of free speech. In my view, it is.”
In the United States, the code is considered First Amendment protection to the country’s constitution, but it’s a concept still being tested in Europe.
Protesters, including Pertsev’s wife Xenia Malik, waved banners demanding his release and chanted “open source [code] is not a crime”.
The FIOD also says that the people behind the loosely structured decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) that manage many Web3 projects, “have made large-scale profits” from criminal flows, though not clear whether they consider Pertsev to have participated.
Protester Eléonore Blanc said: “The arrest” goes against everything I’ve done in the past few years. “This is creating a chilling effect that goes against innovation, goes against community.”
The FIOD statement is that “more FUD, more fear, uncertainty and doubt, comes from Dutch regulators and from Dutch institutions. It’s not good,” she said. Blanc is the founder of cryptocanal.org, a Web3 event and consulting firm. “Let’s stay competitive, let’s have clear laws… this creates uncertainty.”
Others say that the authorities should really focus on holding those responsible for incidents like the recent terraUSD crash.
“Alex is just a developer. They should go after the real criminals,” said protester and Web3 developer Naomi Schetini.
Pertsev “is not responsible for criminals using his code to carry out illegal activities. That is like saying that the inventor of the knife is responsible for the murders. It’s really ridiculous. “
Rodrigo Zapata, project manager of a blockchain-based biodiversity firm, said the arrest could have an impact on people in other areas of web development.
Zapata told CoinDesk is “the equivalent of jailing someone coding Linux because some hackers in some countries are using it to hack some government systems.” “It’s just ridiculous and inappropriate.”
The law needs to be updated for the open source era, he said. “Public authorities are monitoring what should be done by legislators, not by executive power.”
Whether the authorities will notify is another matter. While the gathering was one of the larger groups in the square located between the Royal Palace and the Wax Museum in the heart of the capital, #FreeAlex protesters were jostled with Christians, who followed Satanists and performers dressed as Death and Jack Sparrow.
Among other attention-grabbing signs: “Boycott Israel,” “Leave Cuba,” “Jesus Is Black,” “Stop Harvesting Organs From Falun Gong,” and “Democracy is back in Bolivia.”
Both the FIOD and the Dutch prosecutor declined to comment when approached by CoinDesk prior to the rally.