ROME—A German couple was convicted Tuesday of selling their son on the “darknet” and facilitating his sexual torture—often with their own child-size bondage ropes tied onto his small bed.
The couple, identified by AFP as Berrin Taha, 48, and Christian Lais, 39, were convicted of rape, aggravated assault of a child, forced prostitution, and distribution of child pornography in Freiburg, Germany, as part of a larger trial that exposed a European pedophile ring that operated on the darknet, also referred to as the dark web or deep web. This is the unindexed portion of the World Wide Web. It can only be accessed with special browsers, and illicit activity often goes unchecked because buyers and sellers of everything from drugs to humans cannot be traced.
Taha, the boy’s biological mother, and Lais, who is the boy’s legal stepfather, testified in June against Javier Gonzalez Diaz. The parents apparently hoped to lighten their own sentences as part of the bargain. Gonzalez Diaz, a Spanish citizen, was convicted of buying the boy for what amounted to supervised sexual assault in the parental home at a cost of around $11,600 per encounter.
Gonzalez Diaz was convicted in July of 14 counts of aggravated sexual assault along with single counts of rape and inflicting bodily harm during the making of child pornography, according to German news service Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Gonzalez Diaz was also ordered to pay over $20,000 in damages to the child, who is now 10 years old.
The Spaniard was one of a group of six people that Taha and Lais testified against in their plea bargain deal for crimes relating to the sale and abuse of their own son. Four other convictions have been handed down in that case so far.
According to media reports from the courthouse in Germany, Lais met several members of the pedophile ring while he was serving a prison sentence for child rape when he was a young adult. He apparently kept in touch with several other like-minded criminals who devised a plan to use Taha’s biological son as a child sex slave.
The court that handed down the parents’ convictions also heard evidence that the boy was filmed while being raped violently on a dirt road near Freiburg, where the couple lives. The film was meant to be an advertisement for the child on the deep web, according to court reports in German media, but because the boy cried and resisted, the film could not be used. Subsequent tapes that were used to advertise the young child, who would have been just eight years old at the time, appear to show him drugged and submissive.
The court heard that the boy, who is now living with foster parents and receiving psychological treatment, was subject to more than 60 sex acts. During the trial Lais, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison, accused the mother of instigating the sale of her biological son to try to keep Lais in the relationship since she knew that he had a preference for pedophilic sexual encounters with young boys. Taha, who was sentenced to 12 years and six months, instead told the court that she was also kept captive by Lais and forced to sell her son or risk being killed. Lais will be remanded in preventive custody after their prison sentences are finished in an apparent attempt to protect the public.
The couple have also been ordered to pay nearly $50,000 in damages to their son and to a three-year old girl whose photos were found in the child’s possession and who was identified thanks to an anonymous tip.
The horrific case has called into question just how authorities in Germany failed the young victim, who was removed from his mother’s custody in March 2017 but returned a few weeks later after his claims of abuse were not believed.
Physical examinations which would have easily shown the extent of his rape and torture were not performed when the child was initially removed from parental custody, according to media reports from the trial. An anonymous source led to the couples’ arrest and definitive removal of the child from their custody in September 2017.