Swedish software developer and digital rights activist Ola Bini was acquitted of charges of hacking a computer on Tuesday, January 31 by a court in Quito. The activist was acquitted unanimously by a tribunal of three judges after delivering a nearly 4.5-hour-long statement. Bini has faced persecution from the Ecuadorian state since 2019, and the legal proceedings against him have been marred by irregularities.
Speaking after the verdict to Peoples Dispatch, Carlos Soria, a member of the legal team for Bini, termed the tribunal’s unanimous verdict “unexpected” and a “very nice surprise,” considering all the irregularities, over 100 violations of due process, and adverse judgments over the nearly four years since Bini was first arrested. The prosecution has declared it will file an appeal, and Soria said Ola Bini’s legal team will be preparing for it.
Ola Bini termed it a fantastic victory and also pointed out that it helped make Ecuador a safer place for cyber-security experts to work.
#URGENTE Primeras declaraciones del informático sueco @olabini tras la decisión unánime de su inocencia. "Más allá de que esta declaración de inocencia es una victoria fantástica para mí, esta es la primera vez que la justicia en Ecuador discute sobre seguridad informática … pic.twitter.com/JP10mJFMvu
— Justicia Minuto a Minuto (@MinutoJusticia) February 1, 2023
The Center for Digital Autonomy, an organization Bini is associated with, said the verdict marked a milestone in the defense of digital security and human rights. It added that the verdict ratified that “our work should not be criminalized, especially when they [the prosecution] does not have solid technical arguments.
Bini was arrested in Quito on April 11, 2019, the same day his friend, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and arrested. From the outset, activists across the world pointed out the procedural lapses in the arrest and condemned the then Lenin Moreno government for persecuting Bini. He was released after 70 days in prison. At that time, the prosecution had not even formalized any charges or presented any evidence.
The prosecution kept amending the charges against Bini and finally came up with the accusation of illegal, non-consensual access to a computer or communications system, which carries a jail sentence of anywhere between three to five years.
In September 2019, the judge presiding over the trial was forced to recuse himself after allowing undue interference in the case from the prosecutor’s office.
Throughout the trial, digital rights organizations, such as Access Now, Article 19, and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) chronicled the numerous procedural violations and conducted an international campaign in solidarity with Ola Bini.