San Francisco – A team from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has returned from a fact-finding mission in Quito for the case of Ola Bini—a globally renowned Swedish programmer who is facing tenuous computer-crime charges in Ecuador.
Bini was detained in April, as he left his home in Quito to take a vacation to Japan. His detention was full of irregularities: for example, his warrant was for a “Russian hacker,” and Bini is Swedish and not a hacker. Just hours before Bini’s arrest, Ecuador’s Minister of the Interior, Maria Romo, held a press conference to announce that the government had located a “member of Wikileaks” in the country, and claimed there was evidence that person was “collaborating to destabilize the government.” Bini was not read his rights, allowed to contact his lawyer, or offered a translator.
Bini was released from custody in June, following a successful Habeas Corpus plea by his lawyers. But he is still accused of “assault on the integrity of computer systems”—even though prosecutors have yet to make public any details of his alleged criminal behavior.
“If someone breaks into a house, and authorities arrest a suspect, the prosecution should at the very least be able to tell you which house was broken into,” said EFF Director of Strategy Danny O’Brien, who was part of EFF’s delegation to Quito. “The same principle applies in the digital world.”
In Ecuador, EFF’s team spoke to journalists, politicians, lawyers, academics, as well as to Bini and his defense team. These experts have concluded that Bini’s continuing prosecution is a political case, not a criminal one.
“We believe that Ecuadorian authorities have grown concerned about the wider political consequences of either abandoning Bini’s case or continuing to prosecute, creating an impasse,” said O’Brien. “But Ola Bini’s innocence or guilt should be determined by a fair trial that follows due process. It should in no way be impacted by potential political ramifications.”
Bini has worked on several key open source projects, including JRuby, and several Ruby libraries, as well as implementations of the secure and open communication protocol OTR. He has also contributed to Certbot, the EFF-managed tool that has provided strong encryption for millions of websites around the world. Bini recently co-founded Centro de Autonomía Digital, a non-profit organization devoted to creating user-friendly security tools.
For more on Ola Bini and EFF’s delegation to Ecuador: