QUITO, Ecuador – A collaborator of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested on Thursday in Ecuador while trying to flee to Japan, the country’s interior minister told AFP.
Maria Paula Romo said that the prisoner was a person close to Assange and that he lived in Ecuador, but did not reveal his identity.
According to the Associated Press news agency, the detainee is a Swedish software developer.
An Ecuadorian official told AP on the condition of anonymity that Ola Bini was arrested Thursday at Quito’s airport as he was preparing to board a flight for Japan.
Meanwhile, a Swedish man reportedly by the same name describes himself as a software developer working in Quito for the Centre for Digital Autonomy, a group based in Ecuador and Spain focused on privacy, security and cryptography issues, according to AP. The group makes, however, no mention of any affiliation with Wikileaks. Netizens have shared on Twitter the alleged photos of an arrested person.
Sueco Ola Martin Bini fue detenido esta tarde en Quito, cuando pretendía viajar a Japón, para ser investigado por relación con #Wikileaks y Julian Assange. Bini vive aquí desde 2013 y esta mañana tuiteó lo que dijo la ministra Romo sobre hackers rusos: “cacería de brujas”, puso. pic.twitter.com/7ASK7laX34
— LaHistoria (@lahistoriaec) April 12, 2019
Assange’s lawyer, Carlos Poveda, said the detainee is a friend, not an aide to the founder of WikiLeaks.
“It is his friend. He is not [Assange’s] adviser. Lawyers do not know the reason behind his arrest but it is not true that he is some sort of an aide”, Poveda explained.
Poveda also said that Assange’s friend was barred from speaking to his lawyers after being arrested.
The United States is planning to host Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno next week but there are no further details about upcoming meetings in Washington at the moment, a US Department of State official said Thursday following Quito’s termination of political asylum of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“I can’t preview his [Moreno’s] trip next week at this time but these things are still being planned. Of course, we respect Ecuador’s decision”, a State Department official told reporters on Thursday. The official declined to comment, however, on a possible connection between the upcoming visit and Assange’s arrest.
Julian Assange was detained by London police on Thursday after spending seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy after Quito suspended his asylum. The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, accuses Assange of violating the agreement of coexistence to guarantee his permanence in the embassy.