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  • Carlos Soria, lawyer to Ola Bini and Ola Bini in a court Thursday in Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 29, 2019

    Carlos Soria, lawyer to Ola Bini and Ola Bini in a court Thursday in Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 29, 2019 | Photo: @denisseteleSUR

Published 29 August 2019

Bini is now accused of “non-consensual access to computer systems” of the state, changed from the April accusation of “an attack on the integrity of government computer systems.”

Ola Bini was called to appear at a court hearing in Quito on Thursday by Ecuador state prosecutors who now say they want to change the charges against the Swedish expert in open software development who has been under investigation by the government since April for supposedly “hacking” state computer systems.

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Ecuadorean Tribunal Court Upholds Prison Order for Swedish Privacy Rights Activist Ola Bini

The hearing to change the charges against Bini and another computer scientist, Ecuadorean Marco Arguello, arrested earlier this month, was initially scheduled to begin at noon at a high court in the nation’s capital. 

However, minutes before it was to begin, the hearing was postponed until 2:00 p.m. due to the absence of an expert translator. The defense’s request to suspend the hearing, using the nation’s penal code on the grounds that Bini be able understand the proceedings in his native Swedish tongue, were denied, according to teleSUR correspondent Denisse Herrera.

Remember that the case of persecution for #FreeOlaBini began with a press conference accusing 2 Russians and a third of destabilizing the government, then supposedly it was attacking computer systems. That accusation cost the Swede 70 days in prison. Today it is no longer Russia, or an attack on computer systems. Now it's two days to defend ourselves against the alleged crime of non-consensual access to computer systems ...

With Bini unable to fully understand the information, the judge asked his Ecuadorean lawyer, Carlos Soria, to explain to his client, in English, what was happening in the courtroom. Soria refused, saying the defendant "has the right to understand the process."

According to local press, on Thursday the prosecutor's office changed its accusation against the prominent advocate for free software to “non-consensual access to computer systems” of the state from the April accusation of “an attack on the integrity of government computer systems.”

Ola Bini was arrested April 11, the same day Ecuadorean authorities allowed the British police to arrest Julian Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London where he had been given asylum since 2012. Ecuador authorities tried to link Bini to Assange’s work, but the Swede has continually denied “collaborating” with the Wikileaks co-founder and says he is not guilty of attempting to destabilize the government as the administration continues to claim, but hasn’t backed up with evidence. ​​​​​​​

The programmer was imprisoned April 13 for more than 70 days without ever being formally charged. He was released in July, but is prohibited from leaving the country. 

The change in charges by the government takes place on the very day that the original 90-day investigation of Bini was set to expire. 

Soria says this is illegal and says it’s happening because “the prosecution couldn't prove the alleged attack, now it requests for a change of crime. A desperate and illegal measure. … This case will be exemplary on how to violate [a person’s] constitutional and human rights,” in Ecuador, Soria tweeted earlier this week.

“There's no legal precedent to extend the prosecution's investigation, as it is prohibited by Ecuador’s Penal code. No procedure can last longer than 120 days, period! So it would be violating the right to defense by not granting at least 30 days to prepare for it,” Soria explained Tuesday.

The judge ruled Thursday that Bini’s defense has two days to prepare for the newest charges. 

On Tuesday, Amnesty International informed it has identified human rights violations and undue interference in the case by government authorities, including President Lenin Moreno and Minister of Government Maria Paula Romo.​​​​​​​

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