Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Julian Assange: Man with alleged links to WikiLeaks arrested in Ecuador

The group's founder was arrested in London on Thursday

Ecuadorean Interior Minister, Mario Paula Romo, said the person had been living in the country and was arrested for conspiring against its government.  AFP
Ecuadorean Interior Minister, Mario Paula Romo, said the person had been living in the country and was arrested for conspiring against its government.  AFP

The government of Ecuador has confirmed a person with alleged links to WikiLeaks has been arrested for trying to leave the country.

The man, believed to be Swedish software developer Ola Bini, was held in Quito airport before he boarded a flight to Japan on Thursday.

Ecuador’s interior minister, Maria Paula Romo, said the person had been living in the country and was arrested for conspiring against its government.

“He has been detained simply for investigation purposes,” she said, adding he had taken foreign trips with the former Ecuadorian foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, who gave political asylum to Julian Assange in 2012.

“We have sufficient evidence that he was collaborating in attempts to destabilise the government,” Ms Romo said.

Mr Bini said that his arrest was “very worrisome” and it “seems like a witch hunt”.

Martin Fowler, a programmer and colleague of Mr Bini, 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.”

On Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London by the British police, after spending seven years living in the building in Knightsbridge.

Mr Assange was later found guilty in a court of breaching bail conditions linked to alleged sexual crimes in 2010 in Sweden but faces charges and potential extradition to the US related to his whistleblowing operation.

If he is convicted on US charges, he could face up to five years in jail.

Mr Assange is accused of conspiring with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning who leaked documents to the group, the US Justice Department said. It claimed that Mr Assange helped Manning crack a password of a US Defence Department computer holding classified documents.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the US “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government”.

Dianne Abbott, the shadow home secretary, has urged Theresa May to block the extradition of Mr Assange to the US on similar grounds to the case of computer hacker Gary McKinnon.

Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Ms Abbott said: “If you remember the Gary McKinnon case – the Americans insisted on extraditing him. He had done this massive computer hack, but his real crime was to have embarrassed the American military and security service.

“In the end the then home secretary, Theresa May, blocked his extradition on what she said were human rights grounds. We think there may be human rights grounds in relation to Assange.”

Ms Abbott said Mr Assange’s sexual assault allegations from the two women in Sweden were “serious”, but said the charges were thrown off. However, fellow Labour MP Jessica Phillips added that Mr Assange’s evasion of sexual violence charges and skipping bail should be opposed by the Labour Party.

Addressing MPs in the UK parliament, Ms Abbott pointed out that Wikileaks had released Pentagon footage of a missile attack in 2007 in Iraq that killed 18 civilians and two journalists.

“It is the monumental amount of leaks such as this that lifted the veil on US-led military operations in a variety of theatres, none of which have produced a favourable outcome for the people of those countries," she said. "Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security, he is being pursued because he is exposing wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces.”

Updated: April 12, 2019 05:02 PM