WikiLeaks supporter arrested in Ecuador
An ace Swedish programmer who was an early, ardent supporter of WikiLeaks has been arrested in Ecuador in an alleged plot to blackmail the country’s president over his abandonment of Julian Assange.
But friends of Ola Bini say the soft-spoken encryption expert is being unfairly targeted for his activism on behalf of digital privacy.
Bini, 36, was arrested Thursday at the airport in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito as he prepared to board a flight to Japan. The arrest came just hours after Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Bini was carrying at least 30 electronic storage devices. His lawyers said they have not been notified whether he’s been charged. Authorities said the plot hatched with two unidentified Russian hackers living in Ecuador involved threatening to release compromising documents about President Lenin Moreno as he toughened his stance against the WikiLeaks founder.
“It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime,” Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said Friday. “But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a center for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over.”
Romo said Bini had traveled at least 12 times to meet with Assange at the London embassy. She said he was also in Venezuela earlier this year around the same time as a close aide to Moreno’s former mentor turned arch enemy, Rafael Correa. The former president granted Assange asylum in 2012 and has been leading a campaign cheered on by WikiLeaks to expose corruption by Moreno that has included the release of damaging personal documents and photos, including several that showed him eating lobster in bed.
While the extent of Bini’s relationship with Assange is unclear, the Swede has defended the WikiLeaks founder’s free-speech rights in an online blog he’s kept over the years.