(CNN Spanish) – This Wednesday begins in Ecuador the trial against the Swedish programmer Ola Bini, a friend of Julian Assange. Bini insists on his innocence and assures that there is a persecution against him associated with his friendship with the co-founder of Wikileaks.
Since April 2019, the computer scientist Ola Bini has been investigated by the Ecuadorian authorities for, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, accessing the computer system of the National Telecommunications Corporation of Ecuador without authorization or consent in order to try to obtain information on the digital content of the platforms of the Petroecuador Public Company and the then National Intelligence Secretariat.
Bini was arrested in Quito, his place of residence, the same day that Julian Assange was arrested in London after the end of his asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Swedish scheduled spent 70 days in preventive detention and then the justice ruled his freedom, but he is prohibited from leaving the country, his accounts were frozen and he has to appear weekly before the Prosecutor’s Office.
“This has been extremely frustrating, it’s been a long time. At the same time it is clear that this delay is because the government has been afraid to go ahead, they know they don’t have any real evidence of any kind of crime, so that’s why they have been delaying this so many times,” Bini said in an interview. with CNN.
The Prosecutor’s Office assures that it presented more than 60 elements of conviction in the process, such as a photo found on Bini’s cell phone that warns that unauthorized access to the account is punishable by law. The elements presented also include expert reports of computer forensics, audio, video, versions and the international criminal assistance required from the United States that allowed the extraction of information from one of the devices of the defendant.
“Well, I mean, it doesn’t mean anything; first, it was taken illegally; second, an image cannot be used to prove that something happened in a computer system; third, it’s text where the text can be manipulated and changed however you like; and fourth, in reality, they have not even said if this image existed and even if it shows something that happened, they have not proven it to me in any way, ”said Bini about the photograph presented by the Prosecutor’s Office.
The contradictory case against Ola Bini
In April 2019, the then Minister of the Interior of Ecuador María Paula Romo —later Minister of Government— said that Bini was involved in activities to destabilize the government of President Lenín Moreno through computerized means, although she did not specify how.
Then-President Moreno said days later that Bini had been discovered hacking government and individual email accounts, as well as telephones. However, Bini has not been prosecuted for any of these crimes and has rejected these accusations as “unfounded” and assures that he never tried to destabilize the Government.
Bini, who defines himself as a defender of free software and privacy, is a friend of the co-founder of Wikileaks and insists that his relationship with Assange has cost him legal persecution. Bini visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on at least 12 occasions, according to the government of former President Lenín Moreno.
At the end of July 2019, Romo told CNN that the authorities were investigating Ola Bini’s alleged links with Julian Assange: “He was a regular visitor to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; he had a direct connection with Mr. Julian Assange and we presume that also with his We hope that it will be the administration of justice, prosecutors and judges, who will say whether these presumptions that we have are confirmed or not.”
“But as far as I know, there is no case against Julian here in Ecuador and there is no relationship between me and Julian or Wikileaks, except that we are friends. The interesting thing is that even though being friends with someone is not a crime, and there is no crime here in Ecuador for Julian to be charged with,” Bini told CNN.
“There is no type of verification that the Ecuadorian government or authorities have done to establish any type of criminal relationship between Ola Bini and Julian Assange,” Carlos Soria, Bini’s lawyer, told CNN.
Bini and his defense assure that the process has had contradictions.
In 2019, working groups of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) rapporteurs for freedom of expression and arrests questioned Bini’s prison, which they considered arbitrary. Amnesty International considered that the statements by Romo and Moreno represented interference in the judicial process.
Judge Yadira Proaño, the previous magistrate in charge of the case, was separated from the trial against Bini in July 2021 after the defense requested her recusal alleging “procedural fraud” and rejected the charges of unauthorized access to a computer system.