Assange friend jailed by Ecuador says case will collapse

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A Swedish programmer friendly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he’s confident the allegations that have him jailed in Ecuador lack substance and “will collapse.”

Privacy activist Ola Bini also says in a statement provided by his attorney that he’s being held under “the best of circumstances,” but that prison conditions are “despicable.”

“He’s sleeping on the floor without a mattress” in Quito’s overcrowded Inca Provisional Detention Center, attorney Carlos Soria said Thursday, and has not yet received a visit from a Swedish consular official a week after being arrested boarding a fight for Japan.

A judge ordered Bini held for 90 days while prosecutors prepare a case. Soria said they have presented no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, said Tuesday in Washington that Bini hacked cellphones and online accounts belonging to private citizens and the government.

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Interior Minister Paula Romo originally said Bini was involved with two unnamed Russian hackers in a plot to blackmail Moreno. No details were given.

She said in a televised interview Thursday that authorities wanted to know why “an expert in encryption, in security” had purchased $250,000 in digital storage in Ecuador.

“What type of activity requires such an immense quantity of data storage on a Ecuadorian server?” she asked. “What kind of information is it? That’s part of what prosecutors and judges are going to have to define.”

Soria does not deny that Bini visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Romo earlier said he visited at least 12 times. But Soria denies Bini was a WikiLeaks collaborator and calls the charges against his client baseless.

Assange had lived at the cramped London embassy since 2012, but relations soured after Moreno took office, then lifted asylum and evicted Assange last week.

A resident of Ecuador since 2013, Bini is the technical director of the Center for Digital Autonomy, a nonprofit whose projects focus on user-friendly encryption tools to make communications safer.

Bini thanked supporters in his statement and said he is being held for ideological reasons — for what amounts to Orwellian “thoughtcrimes.”

“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,” he said. “If Ecuador can do this, so can others.”

“I’m confident it will be obvious that there’s no substance to this case, and that it will collapse into nothing,” he said.

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Bini’s parents arrived in Quito from Sweden earlier in the week and Soria said they have visited him in jail.


Bajak reported from Boston.

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