Software Developer Arrested for Possessing Technical Manuals

Following the revocation of Julian Assange’s political asylum, Ecuador has gone further and arrested software developer Ola Bini.

It seems that the world is continuing to take an increasingly anti-technology stance. Two weeks ago, Ecuador allowed British authorities to arrest Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange. Last month, Europe passed a copyright directive that would crack down on online free speech.

Now, Ecuador has moved even further and arrested a software developer. His name is Ola Bini and he helped develop a number of open source projects. Among them is JRuby, open source protocol OTR, and Certbot. Now, he is behind bars. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling for the dropping of all charges against Bini. From the EFF:

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.

One might expect the Ecuadorean administration to hold up Bini as an example of the high-tech promise of the country, and use his expertise to assist the new administration in securing their infrastructure — just as his own European Union made use of Ola’s expertise when developing its government-funded DECODE privacy project.

Instead, Ecuador’s leadership has targeted him for arrest as a part of wider political process to distance itself from WikiLeaks. They have incorporated Ola into a media story that claims he was part of a gang of Russian hackers who planned to destabilize the country in retaliation for Julian Assange’s ejection.

With this latest arrest, it is showing that governments around the world are taking an even harder line on anyone associated with technology and the Internet. This hard line goes well beyond Wikileaks even though the whistleblowing and transparency website has become more prominent in the media as of late. This trend will no doubt be disappointing to many who support technology and digital rights in general.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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