Open letter from Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Dave Eggers, Pamela Anderson and many more on behalf of imprisoned tech privacy activist Ola Bini

We can’t have privacy without agency.

SOURCEIndependent Media Institute
Image Credit: LA Progressive

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Without privacy, we can’t have agency say Noam Chomsky, Pamela Anderson, Yanis Varoufakis, Arundhati Roy, Brian Eno, Dave Eggers and other global voices…

We are 11 days into the illegal detention of Ola Bini, Swedish free software and privacy programmer. Organizations and activists around the world are speaking out about this violation of his rights.

People working for free software and privacy should not be criminalized, there is nothing criminal about wanting privacy.

“I believe strongly in the right to privacy. Without privacy, we can’t have agency, and without agency we are slaves. That’s why I have dedicated my life to this struggle. Surveillance is a threat to us all, we must stop it.” –Ola Bini

Remember 4/11 as the date a Swedish national was arrested by the Ecuadorian government for no cause, obviously driven by outside forces as they had no cause to hold him and offered lie after evasion after contortion of law to friends and family in the first 48 hours.

The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet just ran a letter to the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, signed by over 100 global voices, requesting Sweden “take firm, immediate action” toward the suffering of their citizen being illegally held in an Ecuadorian jail, sleeping on the floor without access to clean water.

Here is that letter:

Dear Prime Minister Stefan Löfven,

On April 11, Swedish national Ola Metodius Bini, a free software developer, was arrested in Quito (Ecuador). He has been living in the Republic of Ecuador for the past six years. Ola Bini is now serving a 90-day pretrial detention. He has not been afforded bail.

The case of Ola Bini has drawn worldwide concern. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye said that ‘nothing in this story connects Ola Bini to any crime’. Further, he said, ‘the govt of Ecuador must demonstrate more than that or this looks like an arbitrary detention’. The Organisation of American State’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, added, ‘I share the Rapporteur David Kaye’s concern around the arrest and detention of digital activist Ola Bini’.

Amnesty International and Article 19 have publicly echoed this concern and are closely monitoring the case.

On April 11, Ola Bini was going to Japan for a martial arts training course, which he had advertised on twitter a week before. He was detained by the Ecuadorian police. In violation of due process, the police did not contact the Swedish authorities. This process is part of the standards of Ecuadorian law. After 15 hours of his initial detention, they made the contact.

Ola Bini’s human rights have been violated repeatedly by the police, by the Ministry of the Interior, by the Attorney General’s office and by the judge in charge of the case. The agents who initially detained him did not have a valid warrant. He was denied access to his lawyers for 17 hours. He was not permitted to have a translator – even though his Spanish is rudimentary. He was not informed of the charges against him.

Ola Bini was held at the airport for more than eight hours. In violation of Ecuadorian law, he was not transferred to the police facilities. The police then took him to his home, where they coerced him to allow access. Finally, he was taken to a facility abandoned by the judicial police, where he spent the night. By that time, he still did not have any access to legal advice or assistance.

The next morning – on April 12 – Ola Bini was transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office, where he remained for a further 12 hours before a hearing. For a total of 17 hours Ola Bini was not allowed legal advice or food. His lawyers report that they were harassed and threatened by the police.

At the hearing, the prosecutor offered no evidence against Ola Bini. Based on the Ecuadorian Penal Code, he was accused of one very serious crime – attacking the integrity of computer systems. Despite the lack of any evidence, the judge placed Ola Bini in pretrial detention for 90 days. There was no bail hearing.

We believe that the process is politically motivated. Fabricated charges, with no evidence, have been brought against an innocent man. He has been caught in a dispute that does not concern him and with which he is not involved at all. There is not a single piece of evidence that incriminates him. Ola Bini sits in an Ecuadoran prison, denied bail, and with no guarantees of due process.

Ola Bini is a globally respected figure in the free software community, and a renowned activist for the right to privacy. In 2010, Computerworld magazine named him as Sweden’s 6th best developer. He is a member of various European and international networks for free software and privacy, and he participates in projects of the highest level, some of them sponsored by the European Commission. Ola has never expressed any views that would in any way be a threat to the Ecuadorian government.

As an advocate and an activist for the right to privacy, Ola has visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London several times. However, he does not work for Wikileaks, nor has he ever worked for them. Any allegation that he is conspiring against the Ecuadorian government and its computer systems is false and ludicrous.

We appeal to the Swedish Government to take firm, immediate action. So far, the Swedish Government’s efforts have been limited to the presence of the Swedish Honorary Consul in Quito. While we are grateful that the Swedish Honorary Consul in Quito involved himself we would ask you and the government to lift this to a political level, since it seems to be a political reason behind the arrest. We are sure that the misunderstanding about who Ola is and what he does could quickly be resolved. The Swedish Society and the Government of Sweden are recognized worldwide as active defenders and promoters of human rights and freedom of expression. His family, his friends, his colleagues, call on the Swedish government to intercede for Ola before the Ecuador authorities, demand respect for the law and for Ola’s human rights, and to facilitate his safe immediate return to Sweden.


Concerned citizens

Arundhati Roy / Author

Brian Eno / Artist, Musician

Dave Eggers / Author

Noam Chomsky / Institute Professor (emeritus) MIT, Laureate Professor University of Arizona

Pamela Anderson / Actress

Yanis Varoufakis / DiEM25 co-founder, Professor of Economics – University of Athens

Adolfo Perez Esquivel / Recipient Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina

Evgeny Morozov / Writer and researcher on social implications of technology

Jean-Luc Mélenchon / French MP and President of the Parliamentary Group France Insoumise

Mairead Maguire / Recipient Nobel Peace Prize 1976, UK

Martin Fowler / Software Development Author

Pablo Iglesias / General Secretary Podemos, presidential candidate, Spain

Agustín Frizzera / Director, Democracia en Red

Aijaz Ahmad / Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, University of California (Irvine)

Albert Leger / Artist/Activist

Alberto Garzón / Spanish MP and General Coordinator of United Left Party

Alfredo Velazco / Usuarios Digitales

Almudena Bernabéu / Human Rights Lawyer, Co-founder of Guernica 37

Ana Miranda / European Parliament MP, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance

Angela Richter / Director

Anthony Arnove / Publisher

Antoine Deltour / Whistleblower

Ariovaldo Ramos / Evangelical Front for a State of Rights

Bernardo Loureiro Jurema /

Birgitta Jónsdóttir / Former parliamentarian for the Civic Movement & Pirate Party in the Icelandic Parliament & chairman for IMMI (International Modern Media Institute)

Carlo Freccero / Rai

Carol Proner / Member of the International Committee of the Brazilian Association of Jurists for Democracy – ABJD

Carolina Resende Haddad /

Christian Leon / Political Innovation Asuntos del Sur

Clare Daly / Deputy to the Dáil (MP), Independents 4 Change

Colonel Ann Wright / Veterans for Peace and former UN Diplomat, who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq

Cory Doctorow / Author and co-editor, Boing Boing

Cristina García / Novelist

Daniel Goodwin / Attorney

David Adler / Diem25

David Harvey / City University of New York

David Heinemeier Hansson / Danish programmer

Davide Castro / Diem 25, and Co-Founder World Solidarity Forum

Eirini Mitsiou / Member of Coordinating Collective in DiEM25

Eleonora de Lucena / Journalist

Eli Gomez Alcorta / Lawyer of Milagros de Sala and diverse causes of defense of human rights

Enrique Santiago / General Secretary of the Spanish Communist Party, Human Rights Lawyer

Erik Edman / Sociologist, Activist, MEP candidate MeRA25

Ernest Urtasun / European Parliament MP, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance

Estefanía Torres Martínez / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Fabio Luis Barbosa dos Santos / Professor at UNIFESP University Brazil

Felice Cappa / Rai

Francesca Bria / CTO Barcelona and DECODE project lead

Frank Barat / Russell Tribunal

Frei Betto / Dominican friar and writer

George Danezis / University College London

Geraldine de Bastion / Konnektiv Kollektiv

Gerardo Pisarello / First Deputy Mayor Barcelona City

Gloria Verónica Sammartino / Professor – Universidad Buenos Aires

Gustavo Banegas / PhD Student/Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

Heike Hänsel / MP, Left Party Spokesperson on the Committee on International Relations of the German Bundestag

Heinrich Buecker / Coop Anti-War Cafe Berlin

Heloisa Fernandes / Sociologist – Universidade de São Paulo

Irvin Jim / General Secretary, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)

Javier Arteaga / Director, Feeling

Javier Couso Permuy / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Jimmy Nilsson / Founder of factor10

João Paulo Rodrigues / National Direction of MST and of Brazil Popular Front

Joao Pedro Stedile / MST and Via Campesina Brasil

Jodie Evans / co-founder CODEPINK; Women for Peace

Johanna Scheringer-Wright / Member of Regional Parliament of Thuringia (Mitglied des Landtages Thüringen)

John Kiriakou / former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Jon-Erling / Dahl CTO / fooheads AB

José María Guijarro / Spanish MP and General Secretary of the Parliamentary Group of Unidas Podemos

José Shultman / President of the Argentine League for Human Rights

Joslyn Barnes / Film Producer

Juan Grabois / Lawyer, CTEP leader and Patria Grande Front member. Coordinator of the dialogues of popular movements with Pope Francisco

Katharina Wojcik / DiEM25

Khadija Ryadi / Recipient of the UN Prize for Human Rights

Leonardo Boff / Theologian, Philosopher and Member of the International Earth Charta Commission

Lola Sánchez Caldentey / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Lorenzo Marsili / Co-Founder European Alternatives

Maite Mola / Vice president of the Party of the European Left (PEL)

Manuel Bertoldi / Patria Grande Front

Marco Antonio Santos / Psychologist

Marga Ferré / President of La FEC, Foundation Europe of the Citizens

Maricarmen Sequera / Executive Director, TEDIC

Mark Weisbrot / CEPR, USA

Medea Benjamin / co-founder CODEPINK; Women for Peace

Mick Wallace / Deputy to the Dáil (MP), Independents 4 Change

Miguel Urban / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Mishi Choudhary / Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Centre

Moritz Bartl / Renewable Freedom Foundation

N. Ram / Chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group, Chennai, India

Neville Roy Singham / Founder of ThoughtWorks, now retired

Nicklas Andersson / CTO

Niclas Nilsson / CEO at fooheads AB

Nicolás Díaz Cruz / Executive Director, Extituto de Política Abierta

P. Sainath Founder /, People’s Archive of Rural India

Pablo Bustinduy / Spanish MP and International Secretary of Podemos

Patrick Linskey / Principal Engineer, Cisco Systems Inc.

Paul Mason / journalist and Decode advisory panel member

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro / Former minister for human rights and former coordinator of the National Truth Commission

Pavel Égüez / Muralist Painter

Perti Sumula / Association – Friends of the MST

Prabir Purkayastha / President Free Software Movement of India

Renata Avila / Executive Director, Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II / Repairers of the Breach and Poor Peoples Campaign, USA

Richard Pithouse / Publisher New Frame

Rodolfo Lucena / Journalist

Rubén Zavala / Popular education professor, photographer

S’bu Zikode / President of Abahlali BaseMjondolo

Scott Ludlam / Former Australian Senator

Seth Pyenson /

Sevim Dagdelen / MP, Vice Chair Left Parliamentary Group of the German Bundestag

Shanti Marie Singham / Professor of History and Africana Studies, Williams College, Massachusetts USA

Sofía Celi / CAD

Srecko Horvat / Philosopher

Stephanie Whited / comms director torproject, actor, writer

Tania González Peñas / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Tim Norton / Digital Rights Watch

Valerio Arcary / Historian and Teacher – IFET São Paulo

Vendela Vida / Author, USA

Vijay Prashad / Director, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Virgínia Fontes / Professor – University, Rio de Janeiro

Vivien Lesnik Weisman / Latinovision Productions

Walter Palmetshofer / Open Knowledge Foundation Germany

Wagner Moura / Actor, Director

William E. Binney / Former Technical Director at NSA

Xabier Benito Ziluaga / European Parliament MP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green

Y Kiran Chandra / General Secretary Free Software Movement of India

Yolanda Cvitak / MundoJusto

Zackie Achmat / UniteBehind

Zimoun / Artist, Switzerland

You can join these voices by sending an email to Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador, demanding the release of Ola Bini:


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