Ola Bini’s arrest comes within hours of the Ecuadorian interior minister claiming that there are “Russian” hackers in Ecuador, having indicated a possible crackdown.
Ola Bini, a software developer and activist, was detained in Quito by the Ecuadorian government on April 11. Bini was about to board a flight to Japan when he was detained. Authorities are yet to file charges against him and he has not been allowed to contact a lawyer or his friends.
The detention came hours after Ecuador’s interior minister claimed at a press conference that there were “Russian hackers” in the country. Bini has been a prominent advocate of free software and comprehensive digital privacy. He has done extensive work on anonymity and secure communication with a variety of internal organizations, in addition to writing books on technology. He is a Swedish citizen with valid work and residence permits in Ecuador. His detention is being seen as part of a crackdown on the community that supports technology that enables greater security in communications.
At the time of his detention, Bini, a martial arts enthusiast, was about to board a plane to Japan to undergo training under the famous international martial arts organization Bunjinkan. Several activists and close friends of his have cried foul over the detention. Prominent academic and activist, Vijay Prashad, said “Ola Bini is an innocent man, arrested in Ecuador for no reason…”. Prashad has asked people over various social media platforms to pressure president Lenin Moreno into releasing Bini. Chief Scientist at ThoughtWorks and Bini’s former colleague, Martin Fowler, also tweeted “I’m very concerned to hear that my friend and colleague Ola Bini has been arrested in Ecuador. He is a strong advocate and developer supporting privacy and has not been able to speak to any lawyers”.
Media reports quoted Ecuadorian officials as saying that Bini was arrested as part of dismantling a blackmail plot against president Lenin Moreno. However, speaking to Newsclick, lawyer and activist Renata Avila said that “Bini’s arrest is just Lenin Moreno trying to save face by recreating the same kind of trial show the US establishment did with the Russian hackers.” Moreno has been in the thick of controversy after the release of the INA papers which revealed corruption by those close to him.
In a series of tweets, Y. Kiran Chandra, general secretary of the Free Software Movement of India, said Ola was a significant contributor to privacy enhancement technology, and asked why “one of the finest developers who solves problems in society through tech is being treated in a nasty way”.
Earlier Bini had retweeted interior minister Maria Paula Romo’s comment about Russian hackers being in the country, with the comment that it was worrisome and seemed like a witch hunt.