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Highland Park tech guru ‘killed by government,’ father says

The funeral remembrance HighlPark native AarSwartz was attended by family friends Central Avenue Synagogue. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

The funeral and remembrance of Highland Park native Aaron Swartz was attended by family and friends at the Central Avenue Synagogue. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:35PM

HIGHLAND PARK — Aaron Swartz was “killed by the government,” his father, Robert Swartz said at a memorial service Tuesday for the 26-year-old tech genius who killed himself in the face of felony charges he’d stolen millions of files from MIT.

Swartz said his son was “hounded by the government, and MIT refused him.”

“He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles.” he said.

Some 350 mourners filled Highland Park’s Lubavitch Chabad Central Avenue Synagogue, with some lining the back wall and others sitting on the floor,

Aaron Swartz, who was an activist on Internet issues, was tremendously influenced by his grandfather, the late William Swartz, who was active in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Society, a peace and disarmament group, Robert Swartz said.

Two Internet giants — Lawrence Lessig and Tim Berners Lee — extolled Swartz in memorials as a hero of the open source movement who set an example in how to better the world.

Swartz killed himself Friday, weeks before he was to go on trial on charges of stealing millions of articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Swartz fought for free access to information on the Internet and had made it a point to post what he saw as publicly available documents.

After the memorial service, Lessig and Berners Lee said they tried to help Swartz and believed the charges against him were nonsense.

Berners Lee, who is often called the inventor of the World Wide Web, said lawyers had told them not to discuss the case.

“We felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted,” Berners Lee said.

Lessig called the prosecutors’ actions complete callousness and obliviousness.

Laughter mixed with tears as friends recalled Swartz’s steady diet of cheese pizza and macaroni and his waif-like appearance.

Friends said Aaron Swartz was tired of his impending court case and concerned about it defining his life.

Lessig, the MIT professor, said Swartz had become disillusioned and believed open data wouldn’t solve the world’s problems.

Two groups of about 35 people in total, including one man with a face tattoo, said they had come out to “protect” the Swartz family against anti-hacker protesters who were rumored to show up but did not.

Natalie Torn, 16, of Highwood, said Aaron was her hero because of his revolutionary ideas and the way he stood up for what he believed in.

Anna Fox, 15, of Highland Park, said she wanted to show that the city “won’t tolerate anyone’s hatred.”

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