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The Ecuadorean Authorities Have No Reason to Detain Free Software Developer Ola Bini

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Development
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Security

Hours after the ejection of Julian Assange from the London Ecuadorean embassy last week, police officers in Ecuador detained the Swedish citizen and open source developer Ola Bini. They seized him as he prepared to travel from his home in Quito to Japan, claiming that he was attempting to flee the country in the wake of Assange’s arrest. Bini had, in fact, booked the vacation long ago, and had publicly mentioned it on his twitter account before Assange was arrested.

Ola’s detention was full of irregularities, as documented by his lawyers. His warrant was for a “Russian hacker” (Bini is neither); he was not read his rights, allowed to contact his lawyer nor offered a translator.

The charges against him, when they were finally made public, are tenuous. Ecuador’s general prosecutor has stated that Bini was accused of “alleged participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems” and attempts to destabilize the country. The “evidence” seized from Ola’s home that Ecuadorean police showed journalists to demonstrate his guilt was nothing more than a pile of USB drives, hard drives, two-factor authentication keys, and technical manuals: all familiar property for anyone working in his field.

Ola is a free software developer, who worked to improve the security and privacy of the Internet for all its users. He has worked on several key open source projects, including JRuby, several Ruby libraries, as well as multiple implementations of the secure and open communication protocol OTR. Ola’s team at ThoughtWorks contributed to Certbot, the EFF-managed tool that has provided strong encryption for millions of websites around the world.

Like many people working on the many distributed projects defending the Internet, Ola has no need to work from a particular location. He traveled the world, but chose to settle in Ecuador because of his love of that country and of South America in general. At the time of his arrest, he was putting down roots in his new home, including co-founding Centro de Autonomia Digital, a non-profit devoted to creating user-friendly security tools, based out of Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

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Is Mr. Curl (Daniel Stenberg) Blacklisted?

  • Daniel Stenberg: One year in still no visa [Ed: Is the country which has just kidnapped Assange after Chelsea Manning used GNU WGet to download evidence of crimes blacklisting the developer of Curl?]

    One year ago today. On the sunny Tuesday of April 17th 2018 I visited the US embassy in Stockholm Sweden and applied for a visa. I’m still waiting for them to respond.

    My days-since-my-visa-application counter page is still counting. Technically speaking, I had already applied but that was the day of the actual physical in-person interview that served as the last formal step in the application process. Most people are then getting their visa application confirmed within weeks.

    Initially I emailed them a few times after that interview since the process took so long (little did I know back then), but now I haven’t done it for many months. Their last response assured me that they are “working on it”.

    Lots of things have happened in my life since last April. I quit my job at Mozilla and started a new at wolfSSL, again working for a US based company. One that I cannot go visit.

    During this year I missed out on a Mozilla all-hands, I’ve been invited to the US several times to talk at conferences that I had to decline and a friend is getting married there this summer and I can’t go. And more.

    Going forward I will miss more interesting meetings and speaking opportunities and I have many friends whom I cannot visit. This is a mild blocker to things I would want to do and it is an obstacle to my profession and career.

To Ola Bini

  • To Ola Bini, a Political Prisoner Caught Up in the Assange Debacle

    Dear Ola,

    The last time we had a long conversation, it was about the night. We were at a hotel in South America, where the ambient noise near your room was fairly loud. By ambient noise, I mean music. There was a band playing, a bar in motion, people happy for the evening. You said that it was impossible for you to sleep with noise. I asked if you ever considered a white noise machine. You laughed, saying that the white noise would bother you more than anything. We left it at that. You went to your room and probably stayed up all night, looking at the ceiling, thinking about the mysteries of the internet or of software, or else wondering about the long silences of the winter from your Swedish childhood.

    When word came that you had been removed from a flight by the Ecuadorian police on April 11 and that you were being held in detention, I thought immediately about how you would be able to sleep. I wondered where you had been detained and whether the cell would be noisy. Then, as news trickled out that you were not being charged, but merely held in the airport and interrogated, I thought about that band, the white noise machine, the laughter of the people. How far away that must seem as you sit now in a cell in Quito, Ecuador.

    You are not the first of my friends to be imprisoned over the past 12 months. The Bangladeshi photographer and intellectual Shahidul Alam spent 100 days in a Dhaka prison last year. Shahidul, a sensitive and decent man, had gone on television to say that his government had failed its population, particularly the young children who merely wanted to be safe as they walked to school. For his remarks, Shahidul was arrested, interrogated, and then jailed. His crime was simply to speak with honesty about the collapse of basic human behavior in our kind of societies.

Ecuador: Immediately release software developer Ola Bini

  • Ecuador: Immediately release software developer Ola Bini

    As an evidence, the General Prosecutor presented a number of digital devices, such as laptops, iPads, iPods, USB cables, and encrypted USB data storage devices, literature as well as travel patterns and payments for Internet services.

    ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the arrest and illegal detention of Ola Bini is part of a crackdown against the community of developers who build digital security technology tools which enable Internet freedoms and secure communication online.

Ola Bini’s statement from arbitrary detention at El Inca Prison

  • Ola Bini’s statement from arbitrary detention at El Inca Prison, Ecuador

    The leaders of the world are waging a war against knowledge. The case against me is based on the books I've read and the technology I have. This is Orwellian - ThoughtCrime. We can't let this happen. The world will close in closer and closer on us, until we have nothing left. If Ecuador can do this, so can others. We have to stop this idea now, before it's too late.

Letters of support

  • Open letter from Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Dave Eggers, Pamela Anderson and many more on behalf of imprisoned tech privacy activist Ola Bini

    Without privacy, we can’t have agency say Noam Chomsky, Pamela Anderson, Yanis Varoufakis, Arundhati Roy, Brian Eno, Dave Eggers and other global voices…

    We are 11 days into the illegal detention of Ola Bini, Swedish free software and privacy programmer. Organizations and activists around the world are speaking out about this violation of his rights.

    People working for free software and privacy should not be criminalized, there is nothing criminal about wanting privacy.

    “I believe strongly in the right to privacy. Without privacy, we can’t have agency, and without agency we are slaves. That’s why I have dedicated my life to this struggle. Surveillance is a threat to us all, we must stop it.” –Ola Bini

    Remember 4/11 as the date a Swedish national was arrested by the Ecuadorian government for no cause, obviously driven by outside forces as they had no cause to hold him and offered lie after evasion after contortion of law to friends and family in the first 48 hours.

    The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet just ran a letter to the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, signed by over 100 global voices, requesting Sweden “take firm, immediate action” toward the suffering of their citizen being illegally held in an Ecuadorian jail, sleeping on the floor without access to clean water.

Swedish Programmer Ola Bini Denied Bail by Ecuadorean Court

  • Swedish Programmer Ola Bini Denied Bail by Ecuadorean Court

    “Ola is clearly now a political prisoner,” the FreeOlaBini campaign declared after the decision was made by Judge Yadira Proaño, who denied his request arguing that “since the Attorney General’s Office has not stated the amount of the alleged damage, the amount of the bail cannot be set.”

    Bini has been accused, without charges, by the Ecuadorean General Attorney’s office for the alleged crime of attacks against information systems. Yet the defense team has informed that they still haven’t been informed of said charges after 50 days of detention.

Ola Bini's Case Highlights The Dangers of Vague Cybercrime Law

  • EFF to U.N.: Ola Bini's Case Highlights The Dangers of Vague Cybercrime Law

    For decades, journalists, activists and lawyers who work on human rights issues around the world have been harassed, and even detained, by repressive and authoritarian regimes seeking to halt any assistance they provide to human rights defenders. Digital communication technology and privacy-protective tools like end-to-end encryption have made this work safer, in part by making it harder for governments to target those doing the work. But that has led to technologists building those tools being increasingly targeted for the same harassment and arrest, most commonly under overbroad cybercrime laws that cast suspicion on even the most innocent online activities.

    Right now, that combination of misplaced suspicion, and arbitrary detention under cyber-security regulations, is being played out in Ecuador. Ola Bini, a Swedish security researcher, is being detained in that country under unsubstantiated accusations, based on an overbroad reading of the country’s cybercrime law. This week, we submitted comments to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for their upcoming 2019 joint report on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas. Our comments focus on how Ola Bini’s detainment is a flagship case of the targeting of technologists, and dangers of cyber-crime laws.

    While the pattern of demonizing benign uses of technology is global, EFF has noted its rise in the Americas in particular. Our 2018 report, “Protecting Security Researchers' Rights in the Americas,” was created in part to push back against ill-defined, broadly interpreted cybercrime laws. It also promotes standards that lawmakers, judges, and most particularly the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights might use to protect the fundamental rights of security researchers, and ensure the safe and secure development of the Internet and digital technology in the Americas and across the world.

'He is innocent'

  • 'He is innocent': Assange ally Ola Bini imprisoned in Ecuador takes case to UN

    Mr Bini's lawyers have since referred the case to the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which investigates arbitrary arrests and detention around the world.

    [...]

    "What the judge said when he was in court last was astonishing. He said that Bini cannot be released because he has not been able to determine what crime he has committed or who has been subjected to it," he said.

Vijay Prashad: My friend is in a prison in Ecuador

  • Vijay Prashad: My friend is in a prison in Ecuador

    My friend Ola is a kind-hearted vegetarian who languishes in Ecuador’s prison system. Special Rapporteurs from the UN and the Organization of American States have written to Ecuador on May 7 to express their concern about Ola’s arrest and detention; no one has responded to them.

    David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression said that “nothing in this story connects Ola to any crime.” There is a large net thrown by U.S. intelligence around human rights defenders — people like Ola. They are being treated as criminals because they do not accept the deterioration of humanity in our world.

    “The world is full of horrible things,” Ola wrote earlier this year.

    One of them is his unjust imprisonment.

He Has Spent Two Months in Jail Without Charge in Ecuador

  • Ola Bini Was Friends with Julian Assange. He Has Spent Two Months in Jail Without Charge in Ecuador

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared before a magistrates’ court in London Friday, saying his life was “effectively at stake” if the U.K. honors an extradition request from the United States, where he faces 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. Meanwhile, a friend of Assange’s, Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini, is still in prison in Ecuador, after being arrested April 11, the same day Assange was forcibly taken by British authorities from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and has been jailed ever since without charges. We speak with Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and a friend of Ola Bini.

Sources: US to question Assange pal jailed in Ecuador

  • Sources: US to question Assange pal jailed in Ecuador

    U.S. investigators have received permission from Ecuador to question a Swedish programmer close to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has been held in jail for more than two months on suspicion of hacking, The Associated Press has learned.

    The interview with Ola Bini is set for June 27, according to an Ecuadorian prosecutor's order provided to AP by someone closely following the case.

    Spokespeople at the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment, but a person familiar with the case in the United States confirmed that U.S. authorities want to hear from Bini, who was arrested the same day that Ecuador evicted Assange from its embassy in London. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss an investigation that is in progress.

Ola set free

Ecuador Ends ‘Arbitrary’ Detention of Swede Linked to Assange

...Speaks Out After Release from Ecuadorian Jail

  • Ola Bini, Privacy Activist and Julian Assange Friend, Speaks Out After Release from Ecuadorian Jail

    Last week, an Ecuadorian judge ordered the release of Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini, who spent more than two months in jail without charge. Bini is a friend of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. He was arrested in Quito on the same day that Assange was forcibly taken by British authorities from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. We speak with Ola Bini in Quito, where he remains under investigation for allegedly hacking the Ecuadorian government. He says, “Through the whole process, 70 days in prison, and all of the days since, we’ve been asking the prosecution to tell us what it is I have done. And they still have not actually given us any single answer.”

Ola Bini Released After Two Months in Ecuadorian Jail

In Ecuador, Political Actors Must Step Away From Ola Bini’s Case

  • In Ecuador, Political Actors Must Step Away From Ola Bini’s Case

    After spending nearly a week in Ecuador to learn more about the case against Swedish open source software developer Ola Bini, who was arrested here in April, EFF has found a clear consensus among the experts: the political consequences of his arrest appear to be outweighing any actual evidence the police have against him. The details of who stood to benefit from Bini's prosecution varied depending on who we spoke with, but overall we have been deeply disturbed by how intertwined the investigation is to the political effects of its outcome. Ola Bini’s innocence or guilt is a fact that should be determined only be a fair trial that follows due process; it should in no way be impacted by potential political ramifications.

    Since EFF was founded in 1990, we have frequently stepped in to defend security researchers from misunderstandings made by law enforcement, and raised awareness when technologists in the United States have been incarcerated. And last year, we launched a new Coders’ Rights in Latin America project, which seeks to connect the work of security research with the fundamental rights of its practitioners. While security researchers play a vital role in fixing flaws in the software and hardware that everyone uses, their actions and behaviors are often misunderstood. For example, as part of their work, they may discover and inform a company of a dangerous software flaw—a civic duty that could be confused with as a hacking attack.

    When we first began analyzing Ola Bini’s case, we thought this was what had happened. The so-called “evidence” presented after his arrest—which included USB sticks, security keys, books on programming—suggested this might be the case. Of course, owning such things is not a crime, but together, they can seem suspicious to an authority who isn’t in the know.

EFF Delegation Returns from Ecuador

  • EFF Delegation Returns from Ecuador, says Ola Bini’s Case is Political, Not Criminal

    Globally Recognized Technologist Still Facing Charges in Drawn-Out Prosecution
    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.

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