SPANISH police have arrested 186 people throughout the country, including three in the Balearics, in a crackdown on the distribution of child pornography, the Interior Ministry said yesterday. In two parallel operations, 650 officers searched 188 homes and found evidence of child pornography distribution across the Internet using “peer-to-peer” (P2P) software and a system of passwords. In a statement, the ministry said that the material included all kinds of pornographic images of children engaged in explicit sexual acts with other minors and with adult men and women. Police commissioner Francisco Javier Migueláñez, who was in charge of the operation, said that the suspects came from all walks of life and included teachers and civil servants, although most were students, many of them underage. Many of the suspects were released on their own recognisance as they had no criminal record, but they face sentences of more than four years in jail if found guilty of distribution. The maximum sentence for mere possession is one year.
Miguelañez said that the material confiscated came from various sources such as Eastern European, Asian and Ibero American countries, but there were also photographs and videos produced in Spain. The operations were part of a high-priority police crackdown on child pornography and were the most extensive ever undertaken in Spain.
Using the P2P software, those using the illicit group would need passwords to send each other pornographic material without having to post it on a Web page. Investigations started in June 2004, following a routine exchange of information between the special computer investigation brigade and other European police forces. Last month police broke up a group of paedophiles who raped babies and distributed pictures of their crimes over the Internet. One of the group advertised as a cut-price babysitter.