RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A judge in Ecuador called on Tuesday to trial for the crime of “non-consensual computer access” the Swedish computer scientist Ola Bini, a friend of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a controversial process in which the defense of the accused denounces a “procedural fraud”.
Judge Yadira Proaño, after a hearing that had been postponed on at least five previous occasions, called Bini to trial as “alleged perpetrator of the crime of non-consensual access to a computer, telematic or telecommunications system,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
Bini, 38, who denies the charges against him, was arrested on April 11, 2019, as he was about to leave Quito for Japan, a few hours after Ecuador ended the asylum in its embassy in London of the WikiLeaks founder.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Bini accessed the National Telecommunications Corporation’s system without authorization to obtain information on the digital content of the platforms of the oil company Petroecuador and the former National Intelligence Secretariat (Senain).
MORE THAN SIXTY PIECES OF EVIDENCE AGAINST A SWEDISH COMPUTER SCIENTIST
Among the more than sixty pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution are forensic expert opinions and information from the United States, which, thanks to international criminal justice assistance, had extracted files from an electronic device belonging to the defendant.
Likewise, the Prosecutor’s Office has submitted documents from the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry, the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit, and other public and private entities.
According to the Ecuadorian Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Swedish citizen’s crime is punishable with between three and five years in prison.
Read also: Check out our coverage on Ecuador
Bini, at first, was charged with felony hacking, attacking the integrity of state computer systems, but over time the Prosecutor’s Office reduced the charges to “non-consensual access”.
His case should have been prosecuted in 2019 but was postponed several times for different reasons, including those generated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ola Bini (born Ola Martin Gustafsson in 1982) is a Swedish programmer and Internet activist who was working for the Digital Autonomy Center in Ecuador on privacy, security, and cryptography issues. He has been in Ecuador since 2013.
In April 2019, Bini Ecuadorean police 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 in the South American country’s UK embassy located in London.
Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in an interview with a local media that “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.”
She alleged that Bini had worked with “two Russian hackers” also living in Ecuador. An 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.
Ola Bini, an author and prominent advocate for free software and comprehensive digital privacy, has worked with various organizations on anonymity and secure communication.
The computer scientist’s detention occurred 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.