Case against Ola Bini has consequences for all of Latin America, says report

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Bini, digital rights activist and friend of Julian Assange may be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison by an Ecuadorian court by Brasil de Fato

Bini was arrested in 2019 after his friend and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was detained in London – Cristina Vega / AFP

According to a report released on May 5, by a coalition of digital rights groups and media outlets, digital rights activist Ola Bini has been subjected to politically motivated persecution and the legal process and case against him have been marked by deep irregularities and misconduct. The report also suggests that his case could have negative consequences for the entire information security community in Latin America.

The report was produced by the Mission of Observation that has been monitoring Bini’s case for the past several years which includes Ecuadorian and international civil society organizations such as Access Now, Article 19, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Free Software Association of Ecuador (ASLE), Brasil de Fato, Karisma Foundation, Indymedia Ecuador, and others.

Bini, one of the world’s leading digital security experts, was arrested on April 11, 2019 hours after his friend and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was detained in London. Bini’s defense claims that the digital rights activist is being targeted by Ecuadorian authorities for his connection to Assange. Bini had visited Assange while he was confined in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

At the time of his arrest, Bini was imprisoned without any charges being filed against him, and the then president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, even claimed that the activist might have tried to interfere in the US election. After 70 days in jail, Bini was released but the legal process against him continues. Bini is prohibited from leaving Ecuador and his bank accounts have been frozen. His defense is trying to have the case dismissed.

Fabian Hurtado, an expert witness in Bini’s case who prepared a report on the prosecution’s charges against Bini, has been accused of obstruction of justice and his home was recently targeted in a police search operation. Amnesty International says that Hurtado, who worked for Bini’s defense, had his electronic equipment violently confiscated and that the police action was an “intimidating” act that undermines the digital rights activist’s defense.

Human rights organizations claim that the Swedish programmer is the target of a campaign of judicial harassment.

“The judgment against Ola Bini is definitive in technical terms and in terms of the validity of Human Rights in digital environments. This is because the judicial decisions handed down so far have not been based on expert criteria, which can set serious precedents,” says Rodrigo Iturriza, member of the #FreeOlaBini campaign.

After years of postponements, Bini’s trial is scheduled to resume on May 16. The prosecution uses Article 234 of the Criminal Code to charge Bini with one count of non-consensual access to a computer, telematics or communications system. The penalty is three to five years in prison.

This article was originally published by Brasil de Fato.

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