- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2019

Ecuador on Saturday revealed criminal hacking charges against Ola Bini, a computer programmer with ties to recently arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“The State Prosecutor General’s Office filed charges against a Swedish citizen, aged 36, for his alleged participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems,” the agency said in a statement.

The announcement did not mention Mr. Bini by name, but it followed reports that he was ordered held for investigative purposes after being detained at a Quito airport Thursday within hours of Ecuador ejecting Mr. Assange from its London embassy.

“It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime,” Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo told Ecuadorian media Friday. “But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a center for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over.”

Mr. Bini had visited the WikiLeaks publisher at the embassy roughly a dozen times during the last few years, claimed Ms. Romo. She said that he was close to Mr. Assange and that Ecuador had “sufficient evidence that he was collaborating in attempts to destabilize the government.”

Mr. Assange, 47, lived inside the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years prior to President Lenín Moreno rescinding his asylum status this week. He was promptly arrested by British police and faces extradition to the U.S. in relation to the WikiLeaks website and its acquisition and publication of classified U.S. government material.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Bini was intercepted ahead of boarding a plane bound for Japan and that police subsequently conducted a raid at his nearby home and seized several laptops, tablets, cellphones and other electronic devices.

Mr. Bini was ordered jailed for 90 days and had his bank accounts frozen as a result of a ruling by Judge Rodolfo Navarrete, prosecutors said Saturday.

Carlos Soria, a defense lawyer for Mr. Bini, called the judge’s ruling “incomprehensible and surprising,” and said he planned to appeal, Reuters reported.

“They are trying to link him with some sort of possible espionage case without any proof or evidence,” Mr. Soria told Reuters. “He is a personal friend of Julian Assange, he is not a member of WikiLeaks, and being friends with somebody is not a crime — neither is having computers in your home.”

Prior to withdrawing his asylum status, Mr. Moreno accused Mr. Assange of being behind a recent leak of material embarrassing to his administration. WikiLeaks has denied involvement in the leaks, dubbed the “INA Papers.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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