Ola Bini is a Swedish software developer who reportedly has close ties to Wikileaks. On April 12, Bini was arrested while he was preparing to travel from Ecuador to Japan. Bini’s arrest comes the day after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
Here’s what you need to know about Ola Bini:
1. Authorities Are Investigating Whether Bini Was Part of a Plot to Blackmail the Ecuadoran President
Bini has not been formally charged with any crime. But news reports say that authorities are looking into the possibility that he was part of a scheme to blackmail Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador. Moreno, who is far more centrist and moderate than his predecessor, took office in 2017.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had been living in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, when then-president of Ecuador Rafael Correa offered him asylum. Correa, a leftist, was a strong supporter of Assange and Wikileaks. But when Correa’s successor, Lenin Moreno, took office, tensions developed between Assange and the Ecuadoran government. Assange was arrested on April 10 after the Ecuadoran government finally removed his right to asylum.
Authorities are looking into claims that Wikileaks was trying to blackmail President Moreno in order to allow Assange to stay in the Ecuadoran embassy. Some suspected Wikileaks of being involved in the publication of a trove of hacked documents which implied that Moreno was a corrupt businessman. WikiLeaks tweeted a link to the papers, but — according to the Daily Beast — the group said it had nothing to do with publishing the papers.
2. Bini Is a Software Developer Who Focuses on Issues of Security & Privacy
Bini is a software developer working for Centro de Autonomía Digital in Quito, Ecuador. He maintains a blog about his work and his areas of interest, which are mainly to do with privacy, security and cryptography. In his most recent blog post, dated January 6, Bini said that he was working to develop a secure chat tool so that users could exchange information safely with as much security as possible. In another blog entry also dated January 6, Bini wrote, “My mind is very much focused on privacy these days. Some days I’m heads down writing low level code, others I’m spending on specification of cryptographic protocols, or the usability of common types of security interactions. This world is full of horrible things, and we need a change.”
In separate blog posts over the years, Bini expressed his great admiration for Edward Snowden and said he believed that US dominance over the internet was, in the long run, dangerous for most users. He wrote, “Fundamentally I am a believer in free software. I believe that open ecosystems are better than closed ones, and I believe that monocultures are extremely bad in the long run. I am not a huge fan of centralization, and I don’t like the anglocentric focus of our industry. I am not a huge fan of having all my electronic life hosted under the auspices of US legislation, especially not in light of recent events.”
3. Bini Had Often Traveled to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, Where Assange Was Staying, Authorities Say
Bini, a Swedish citizen, has been living in Ecuador for several years. The Ecuadoran interior minister, María Paula Romo, told the BBC that Bini had made many trips over the years to the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was staying.
Assange was arrested on April 10 after Ecuador revoked his asylum. Hours later, Bini was arrested in Quito as he prepared to leave the country and travel to Japan. Bini has not been charged with any crime, and Ecuadoran officials say they are detaining him as part of an investigation.
4. Bini Is a Martial Arts Enthusiast & a Vegetarian Who Never Finished High School
Bini is a martial arts enthusiast. Since at least 2007, he has been training in a form of martial arts called Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. According to People’s Dispatch, Bini was heading to Japan for training in Bujinkan at the time of his arrest on April 11.
Bini has described himself as a vegetarian and an amateur musician. He also referred to himself ironically as an “academic failure” who never finished high school in Sweden and is entirely self-taught.
5. Bini Says Ecuadoran Authorities Are Carrying Out a ‘Witch Hunt’
On April 11, Bini tweeted that he believed the Ecuadoran government was involved in a “witch hunt” against people suspected of involvement with Wikileaks. He wrote, “María Paula Romo, Ecuador Minister of the Interior, this morning held a press conference, claiming there are Russian hackers in Ecuador, and also that there is one person part of WikiLeaks living in Ecuador since several years.” In a second tweet, Bini added, “She further said this information soon will be handed over to the Fiscalía for potential prosecution. Very worrisome news – this seems like a witch hunt to me.”