Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo alleged that Bini had worked with “two Russian hackers” also living in Ecuador.
Ecuadorean police have arrested Swedish programmer and digital privacy activist Ola Bini for allegedly attempting to destabilize the government by “collaborating” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange was controversially stripped of his asylum status by Ecuador's current administration under President Lenin Moreno and immediately arrested by British authorities Thursday in the South American country's UK embassy located in London.
Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in an interview with a local media Thursday that the arrest was made for “investigative purposes,” though she did not name Bini, whose arrest took place at Quito Airport, Ecuador, while on his way to Japan.
“For several years now, one of the key members of this WikiLeaks organization and a person close to Mr. Julian Assange has lived in Ecuador, and we have sufficient evidence that he has been collaborating with the destabilization attempts against the government,” Romo said at a Thursday evening press conference.
She alleged that Bini had worked with “two Russian hackers” also living in Ecuador, though it's still unclear if others have been apprehended in the case. Romo said that descriptions of the persons were being given to prosecutors.
Outspoken critic of Moreno, former president Rafael Correa called Bini an "Ecuadorean political prisoner." Moreno served as Correa's vice president during his first term.
Dentro de la locura de un Gobierno que se derrumba, ya no solo tenemos presos políticos ecuatorianos, sino también extranjeros: Ola Bini, ciudadano sueco arrestado el día de ayer, acusado de ser “colaborador de Assange”— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) 12 de abril de 2019
¿Finalmente dirá algo el mundo ante tanto abuso y represión? pic.twitter.com/P1SXVTap4f
Within the madness of a collapsing government, we no longer only have Ecuadorean political prisoners, but also foreigners: Ola Bini, a Swedish citizen arrested yesterday, accused of being a "Assange collaborator". Will the world finally say something about it? abuse and repression?
Ola Bini, an author and prominent advocate for free software and comprehensive digital privacy, has worked with a variety of organizations on anonymity and secure communication.
The computer scientist, originally from Sweden, has lived in Ecuador for several years. His detention occured hours after Romo claimed there were “Russian hackers” in the country. In his last tweet before his arrest, Bini accused the government of a witch hunt.
She further said this information soon will be handed over to the Fiscalía for potential prosecution. Very worrisome news - this seems like a witch hunt to me.— Ola Bini (@olabini) April 11, 2019
As of Friday morning, authorities had not filed charges against him nor has he been allowed to contact a lawyer, People’s Dispatch reported.
Romo said that the Bini was arrested as part of an investigation to verify information about Wikileaks and could remain in custody for eight hours if no charges are filed.
It is been almost 12 hours since Privacy & Open Source advocate @olabini was arrested at the airport leaving on a long planned trip to Japan. He has been held in the airport, his attorneys have been lied to & threatened. @Lenin this is WRONG! #FreeOlaBini pic.twitter.com/YoDcQMheFA— Jodie Evans (@MsJodieEvans) April 12, 2019
On Thursday, Assange was charged with "computer hacking conspiracy" by the United States Department of Justice, hours after he was arrested by British police in the Ecuadorean Embassy where he had lived under asylum protections since 2012.
U.S. prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against Assange for trying to access a U.S. government computer system containing classified information in 2010 with the aid of former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Manning has been back in U.S. dentention since March for refusing to testify before a grand jury in the case.
Assange faces a maximum prison sentence of five years if found guilty by U.S. courts, the justice department said in a statement. The founder of WikiLeaks was arrested on Thursday by British police and evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy, after Ecuador abruptly ended seven years of asylum, in a decision that his supporters say violates several international human rights conventions.