Operators of darknet child porn forum jailed in Germany

Defendants hide their faces at their trial in connection with the "Elysium" child porn platform. Four defendants have been convicted and jailed for founding and running the darknet forum

A German court on Thursday jailed four men convicted of founding and running a darknet forum for child pornography, with tens of thousands of members swapping illegal pictures and videos.

The regional court in the western city of Limburg handed down prison sentences ranging from three years and 10 months to nine years and nine months to the German defendants, whose names were not released.

All were found guilty of possessing and publishing child pornography, while a 63-year-old defendant was also convicted of abusing two small children and posting images of the acts online.

The sentencing largely met the recommendations of prosecutors.

State prosecutors carried out nationwide raids in July 2017, coordinated by the federal police force, targeting nearly 70 suspects linked to the darknet site known as Elysium.

Before German authorities shut it down in June 2017, the site had more than 111,000 members worldwide who traded images and video files of "the most serious sexual abuse of children, including babies," prosecutors said.

They added that suspects used the US-based online group chat service Chatstep to exchange pornographic images and videos of children.

The platform, which had chat rooms in several languages including English, German, French and Spanish and was online for about six months, was also used to plan the sexual molestation of children.

German prosecutors at the time of the raids hailed the cooperation with Chatstep, which was required under US law to report all cases of child pornography.

Darknet sites like the one uncovered in the case are invisible to most internet users and can only be accessed by using encryption technology.

They have repeatedly been used by criminals to trade drugs, weapons and child pornography.