The recent violation of Assange’s rights as both political asylee and citizen of Ecuador sends a chilling message to Ecuadorians who are being increasingly targeted for their political views both within Ecuador and abroad.
by Whitney Webb
Part 2 - The witch hunt begins
Shortly after Assange was arrested inside Ecuador’s London embassy, Moreno’s government began what has been described as a “witch hunt” against Assange allies living within Ecuador.
Just hours after Assange was arrested, Ecuador arrested Swedish national Ola Bini as Bini attempted to board a flight to Japan. Bini, who was living in Ecuador with valid work and residency permits, was held in detention without a hearing for 30 hours — the legal limit is 24 hours — and was only provided access to a lawyer after 17 hours.
At the hearing, which was held around 11 p.m. local time, Ecuador requested that Bini be given 90 days of pre-trial detention. Notably, Ecuador did not notify the Swedish Embassy in Ecuador of Bini’s arrest, a violation of international protocol. On Saturday, Ecuador’s government claimed that Bini had been charged for “his alleged participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems.” The only evidence against him was the presence of several electronic devices found in his residence and his having made several trips abroad in recent years.
Bini was arrested not long after Ecuador’s Minister of the Interior María Paula Romo had claimed on Thursday that “Russian hackers” were present in Ecuador and — along with a WikiLeaks member — were seeking to “destabilize” the Moreno-led government and “blackmail” Moreno. Notably, prior to his arrest, Bini had tweeted about Romo’s claims and likened it to a “witch hunt.”
Since his arrest, Bini has been alleged to have been the WikiLeaks member to whom Romo alluded on Thursday. However, Bini — according to a statement from his Ecuadorian lawyer, Carlos Soria — has never worked for or collaborated with WikiLeaks, and is merely a software developer and well-known privacy activist.
Yet, Bini is a personal friend of Assange and had visited him in Ecuador’s London embassy on several occasions since 2012. This, along with the fact that the primary evidence against Bini is the large number of electronic devices found in his residence, has led many to suggest that the charges against Bini are political in nature.