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

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Development
OSS
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.

Read more

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.

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