By Andrew Blake
Ola Bini, a Swedish friend of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, was rebuffed Thursday in his bid to be released from an Ecuadorian prison.
A court in Quito denied a challenge mounted on behalf of Bini, 36, a computer programmer and activist detained in Ecuador since April 11.
In a 2-1 vote, an appeals panel of the Provincial Court of Pichincha ordered Bini to remain behind bars while under investigation for allegedly committing illegal computer hacking, local media outlets reported following the hearing.
Judges deliberated for more than three hours before deciding to leave in place a preventive detention order keeping Bini in custody, the reports said.
Prosecutors had argued Bini risked fleeing the country if released and could potentially interfere in their investigation, El Universo reported.
Defense lawyers said they have been given little details about the claims against their client, however, including what computers he allegedly hacked and when, the newspaper reported.
Carlos Soria, an attorney for Bini, reacted to the ruling by saying the defense team felt “embarrassed” and “humiliated” by the court’s decision, the Swede’s supporters said on Twitter.
Bini, 36, was arrested at an airport in Quito hours after Ecuador revoked Assange’s status as a political asylum and punted the WikiLeaks publisher from the nation’s London embassy nearly seven years since he first entered seeking refuge.
The Ecuador State Prosecutor General’s Office subsequently accused Bini of vaguely participating “in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems,” and on April 13 he was ordered placed in preventive custody for 90 days while under investigation.
“I’m confident it will be obvious that there’s no substance to this case, and that it will collapse into nothing,” Bini said in a statement from prison last month.
Ecuadorian President Lenn Moreno has called Assange a “cyber-terrorist” who turned the London embassy into a “center for spying,” and Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo has claimed that he was visited by Bini upwards of a dozen times prior to their arrest.
“It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime,” Ms. Romo previously said about Bini. “But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a center for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over.”
Mr. Soria, Bini’s defense lawyer, previously said Ecuador was attempting without evidence to accuse his client of espionage.
“He is a personal friend of Julian Assange, he is not a member of WikiLeaks, and being friends with somebody is not a crime,” he said last month.
Assange, a 47-year-old Australian native, has been jailed ever since being ejected from the Ecuadorian Embassy and is wanted by the U.S. for allegedly conspiring to commit computer hacking. He said from a London jail Thursday that he will fight efforts to be extradited abroad.
Credit: Washington Times, www.apnews.com