Assange Friend Jailed by Ecuador Says Case Will Collapse
By Gonzalo Solano & Frank Bajak
A Swedish programmer friendly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he's confident the allegations that have him jailed in Ecuador lack substance and ``will collapse.''
Privacy activist Ola Bini also says in a statement provided by his attorney that he's being held under ``the best of circumstances,'' but that prison conditions are ``despicable.''
``He's sleeping on the floor without a mattress'' in Quito's overcrowded Inca Provisional Detention Center, attorney Carlos Soria said Thursday, and has not yet received a visit from a Swedish consular official a week after being arrested boarding a fight for Japan.
A judge ordered Bini held for 90 days while prosecutors prepare a case. Soria said they have presented no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Ecuador's president, Lenin Moreno, said Tuesday in Washington that Bini hacked cellphones and online accounts belonging to private citizens and the government.
Interior Minister Paula Romo originally said Bini was involved with two unnamed Russian hackers in a plot to blackmail Moreno. No details were given.
She said in a televised interview Thursday that authorities wanted to know why ``an expert in encryption, in security'' had purchased $250,000 in digital storage in Ecuador.
``What type of activity requires such an immense quantity of data storage on a Ecuadorian server?'' she asked. ``What kind of information is it? That's part of what prosecutors and judges are going to have to define.''
Soria does not deny that Bini visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Romo earlier said he visited at least 12 times. But Soria denies Bini was a WikiLeaks collaborator and calls the charges against his client baseless.
Assange had lived at the cramped London embassy since 2012, but relations soured after Moreno took office, then lifted asylum and evicted Assange last week.
A resident of Ecuador since 2013, Bini is the technical director of the Center for Digital Autonomy, a non-profit whose projects focus on user-friendly encryption tools to make communications safer.
Bini thanked supporters in his statement and said he is being held for ideological reasons _ for what amounts to Orwellian ``thoughtcrimes.''
``The leaders of the world are waging a war against knowledge. The case against me is based on the books I've read and the technology I have,'' he said. ``If Ecuador can do this, so can others.''
``I'm confident it will be obvious that there's no substance to this case, and that it will collapse into nothing,'' he said.
Bini's parents arrived in Quito from Sweden earlier in the week and Soria said they have visited him in jail.
The Associated Press & the Canadian Press. All rights are reserved.
Leaker Chelsea Manning Stuck in Jail After Assange Arrest Nine years ago, a 23-year-old US army specialist, deeply troubled by the US war in Iraq and by her own gender identity, rocked the US government by leaking disturbing classified military records to WikiLeaks.
Chelsea Manning spent years in prison for her crime before her sentence was commuted -- but on Friday was again sitting in jail for what her supporters say is an ongoing punitive political vendetta.
Last month, she refused to testify in a secret grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested in London on Thursday on a US indictment linked to their cooperation in 2010 on the leak of secret US records of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, her lawyers point out, the grand jury secretly issued its Assange indictment over one year ago, making Manning's testimony superfluous.
But federal prosecutors have jailed her anyway, with little explanation of why.
The Assange indictment "is further evidence that the government's continued imprisonment of Chelsea for her principled stance against grand jury secrecy is punitive, cruel and unnecessary," her lawyers said.
- Deep divide over Manning -
Manning, now 31, had worked since her release from military prison in 2017 to start a new life, as a civilian and as a woman.
But the US is divided over whether what she did was heroic or traitorous.
She was Bradley Manning when, in 2009, she was sent to Iraq as an army intelligence officer with access to a massive database of US war records and classified diplomatic communications.
Manning was already struggling with gender dysphoria in a military officially closed to gay and transgender soldiers.
Meanwhile, she grew despondent about the ongoing wars, leading her to release the hundreds of thousands of files that made Assange and WikiLeaks famous worldwide.
"I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year," she said in her 2013 trial.
"If the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general."
Manning was arrested within weeks after a confidant turned her in. She was thrown into a military prison and held for three years until her trial in 2013.
One day after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison, she announced she was a woman and would go by the name Chelsea.
But until her sentence was commuted in 2017 by president Barack Obama, she endured an ongoing crisis over her gender and attempted suicide twice in prison as she fought for gender reassignment surgery.
- Finding her footing -
After her release, Manning struggled to find her footing, lauded as a spokeswoman for whistleblowers and transgender people, but also spurned over her decision to leak US secrets.
Strong criticism from senior intelligence officials forced Harvard University to rescind a fellowship offer, with CIA chief Mike Pompeo branding her an "American traitor."
In 2018, a half-hearted attempt to run for political office in Maryland failed, but she continued to be celebrated as an important whistleblower.
While everything she did with WikiLeaks in 2010 came out in her trial, in March she was nevertheless ordered to testify again in front of a grand jury, now known to have been investigating Assange.
Manning, a strong critic of the secret panels often used by prosecutors in high-profile cases, said she objected "strenuously" to the subpoena.
"We've seen this power abused countless times to target political speech," she said, making clear that she would be willing to testify in public.
On March 8, the judge ordered her locked up in an Alexandria, Virginia detention center until she testifies or the grand jury is wound up.
The indictment of Assange -- issued secretly in March 2008 -- would appear to negate the need for her testimony.
Julian Assange's lawyer says the WikiLeaks founder will fight his extradition to the United States.
Attorney Jennifer Robinson sounded defiant as she spoke to reporters after Assange was arrested in London on Thursday morning. She said the arrest sets a dangerous precedent for the rights of journalists.
Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took asylum in 2012 while facing extradition to Sweden.
Robinson suggested Assange had long said he would be arrested if he was expelled if Ecuador expelled him from the embassy. She says at least he can now get medical care while in jail.
The defence team could fight attempts to extradite Assange to the United States to face charges related to the publication of tens of thousands of secret government documents.
Russia is criticizing the way in which London police arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the foreign embassy where he took asylum in 2012 and since remained in hiding.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday the way Assange was treated gave ``the full impression of an open and rude disregard for the human dignity of the arrested.''
She said: Russia hopes ``all the rights of Julian Assange will be respected.''
Ecuador's president says his government withdrew Assange's asylum status almost seven years after he sought refuge in the country's embassy in London, alleging ``repeated violations of international conventions and daily-life protocols.''
A judge in London has found WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Judge Michael Snow quickly issued his verdict on Thursday after Assange appeared in the courtroom where his supporters packed the public gallery.
Assange faces a sentence of up to 12 months for the conviction, and has serious charges pending in the United States.
The basis of Assange's defence was that he couldn't expect a fair trial in British courts as the U.K.'s purpose was to ``secure his delivery'' to the United States
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has entered an innocent plea to a charge that he failed to surrender to custody under an order for his extradition to Sweden.
Assange faced sexual assault allegations in Sweden when he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London 2012. The sexual assault charges have since been dropped, but a charge of skipping bail remained in place.
He entered the plea at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday.
He is also facing a potential court battle over attempts to extradite him to the United States to answer charges related to the publication of tens of thousands of secret government documents.
Julian Assange is appearing in a London court as it considers a U.S. extradition request on criminal charges over the publication of tens of thousands of secret government documents.
Assange saluted supporters who packed a public gallery at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday and gave them a thumb's-up.
Wearing a black suit and polo shirt, Assange calmly sat reading a Gore Vidal book while waiting for his lawyers to arrive.
Police in London arrested the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he took refuge in August 2012.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break into a classified government computer.
The charge was announced Thursday after Assange was taken into custody in London in connection with a U.S. extradition request, as well as for breaching U.K. bail conditions in 2012.
His lawyer has previously said that Assange planned to fight any U.S. charges against him.
The indictment accuses Assange of assisting Manning, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, in cracking a password that helped Manning infiltrate Pentagon computers.
Ecuador's government says that as part of its decision to expel Julian Assange from its embassy in London, it has withdrawn the Ecuadorian citizenship he was granted last year in a failed attempt to end the activist's tumultuous stay at its diplomatic mission.
Ecuador also accused supporters of WikiLeaks and two Russian hackers of attempting to destabilize their country.
Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in Quito a close collaborator of WikiLeaks had travelled with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino this year to several countries, including Peru, Spain and Venezuela, in an attempt to undermine the government. She did not identify the individual but said their name, as well as two Russian hackers working in Ecuador, would be turned over to judicial authorities in the coming hours.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May says the arrest of Julian Assange shows that ``no one is above the law.''
May was speaking to the House of Commons after the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder, who was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy Thursday after taking refuge there for seven years to avoid extradition. Ecuador announced it was revoking Assange's asylum status, citing repeated violations of international conventions.
Assange is expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates court later Thursday on allegations of breaching bail conditions dating to 2012, and on extradition charges to the United States.
A U.S. official says the Justice Department is preparing to announce charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The official spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because no charges have yet been announced.
The exact nature of the charges was not immediately known.
Assange was arrested Thursday in London by police for breaching 2012 bail conditions as well as on an extradition request from the United States.
Sweden's Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren says ``we have not been able to decide on the available information'' whether a stalled investigation into alleged sexual offences against Julian Assange could be reopened if he returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in August 2020.
In 2017, Swedish prosecutors dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange, saying there was no way to detain or charge him ``in the foreseeable future'' because of his protected status inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Assange was arrested earlier Thursday at the embassy, where he had been holed up for seven years
Edward Snowden, the former security contractor who leaked classified information about U.S. surveillance programs, says the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a blow to media freedom.
``Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the U.K.'s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of--like it or not--award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books,'' Snowden said in a tweet.
``Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.''
Snowden was charged by the United States in 2013 of violating the country's espionage act. He was granted asylum by Russia that year and the asylum has been extended until at least 2020.
London police say they have arrested Julian Assange on extradition charges to the United States, as well as for breaching U.K. bail conditions.
Scotland Yard said in a statement Thursday that Assange was ``further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station. This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act.''
The WikiLeaks founder sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, after he was released on bail while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. The accusations have since been dropped but he was still wanted for jumping bail.
Separately, he has been under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny for years for WikiLeaks' role in publishing thousands of government secrets.
A senior member of Germany's opposition Left party says Europe must not allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States for trial.
Sevim Dagdelen said in a statement that the withdrawal of Assange's political asylum by Ecuador and his subsequent arrest by British police was a ``scandal, a violation of international law, and at the same time a severe blow to independent journalism.''
She says it is the German government's ``duty'' now to prevent Britain, which earlier Thursday was granted an extension to its departure from the European Union, from extraditing Assange to the U.S., ``where he faces life imprisonment or even the death penalty for exposing U.S. war crimes.''
Julian Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson says the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested on an extradition request from the United States as well as on charges of breaching his bail conditions.
In a tweet, Robinson said Assange ``has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request.''
The U.S. Justice Department inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange in a court filing last year. It's not clear what he's been accused of.
Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who leaked a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks, was jailed last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury.
In a statement Thursday, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said: ``We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities.'
The Swedish woman who alleged that she was raped by Julian Assange during a visit to Stockholm in 2010 has welcomed his arrest in London.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the unnamed woman, says news of Assange's arrest earlier Thursday came as ``a shock to my client'' and that it was something ``we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012.''
Massi Fritz said in a text message sent to The Associated Press that ``we are going to do everything'' to have the Swedish case reopened ``so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape.''
Massi Fritz said ``no rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served.''
In 2017, Sweden's top prosecutor dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange, saying there was no way to have Assange detained or charged within a foreseeable future because of his protected status inside the embassy.
WikiLeaks has accused ``powerful actors,'' including the CIA, of a ``sophisticated'' effort to dehumanize Julian Assange.
The comments by the organization Assange founded came soon after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up for seven years.
In a tweet, the organization posted a photo of Assange with the words: ``This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him. #ProtectJulian.''
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says Russia wants Julian Assange's rights to be observed following his arrest.
Shortly after Assange's arrest in London, Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he could not comment on the overall case.
But, he said, ``We of course hope that all of his rights will be observed.''
Ecuador's president says his government withdrew asylum status for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange almost seven years after he sought refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London, citing ``repeated violations of international conventions and daily-life protocols.''
Lenin Moreno announced the ``sovereign decision'' in a statement accompanied by a video on Twitter on Thursday.
Assange hasn't left the embassy since August 2012 for fear that if he steps off Ecuador's diplomatic soil he would be arrested and extradited to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
London police arrested Assange at the embassy Thursday on a court warrant issued in 2012, when he failed to surrender to the court.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Moreno for breaking the impasse, saying on Twitter thatAssange ``is no hero and no one is above the law.''
Police in London say they've arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy on a court warrant dating back to 2012.
In a statement Thursday, police said Assange has been taken into ``custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as is possible.''
Assange hasn't left the embassy since August 2012 for fear that if he steps off Ecuador's diplomatic soil he will be arrested and extradited to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.