Ola Bini

Ola Bini, (born Ola Martin Gustafsson in 1982[1]) is a Swedish programmer and Internet activist, working for the Digital Autonomy Center[2] in Ecuador on issues of privacy, security and cryptography. He has been in Ecuador since 2013.

Ola Bini
Bini in 2014
Ola Bini

  • programmer
  • author
  • activist
Home townGothenburg, Sweden

In April 2019 Bini was arrested in Ecuador for alleged links to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.[3]


Ola Bini has been involved in the design and implementation of programming languages (JRuby, Ioke, Seph). According to his website, he works on technologies to improve privacy.[4][5]

Karolinska Institutet

According to his 2007 book, Ola Bini worked at the Karolinska Institutet from 2001 to 2007 as a systems developer and systems architect.[6]


In June 2007, Bini left the Karolinska Institutet to join ThoughtWorks for work on the Ruby programming language, including the JRuby core. That year Bini authored the book Practical JRuby on Rails Web 2.0 Projects: Bringing Ruby on Rails to Java, referencing his work for "ThoughtWorks Studios, the product development division of ThoughtWorks, Ltd."[6] He spoke about JRuby and Ioke at Google I/O 2009.[7] In 2011 he authored a second book about creating web development applications, Using JRuby: Bringing Ruby to Java.[8]

The company has since described him as "the creator of programming languages Seph and Ioke", and noted him as a speaker at the Swecha Freedom Fest doing outreach to students in India.[9] At ThoughtWorks, Bini was a co-worker of Aaron Swartz, whose loss he lamented, saying "We’ve spent some time together, and we work for the same company. I was hoping to one day actually be able to work on a project with him."[10]

Bini moved to Ecuador in 2013 as part of his work doing cybersecurity consulting for ThoughtWorks, which contracted with the government of Ecuador that year to advise them on a new law affecting software development.[3] Two weeks after his arrival, he gave a talk "Ecuador as a Privacy Paradise" at a state university event.[11]

The Jan/April 2015 issue of LineaSur Foreign Policy Journal, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, cited an interview with Bini in shaping the government's perspective on Internet privacy policy:[12]

With the arrival of the “Internet of things” and the accumulation of data by companies that process and resell “big data,” the need for clear rules and guarantees of rights is urgent. Many Internet connected devices that are already for sale do not have the necessary securities and expose the population to technical failures, improper surveillance, and criminal acts. (See the interview with Ola Bini [“Desafíos técnicos,” 2015]).

An interview of Bini with this title was published in El Ciudadano in May 2015, in which he called attention to the dangers of cars and other devices vulnerable to internet intrusion.[13]

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Bini is "a free software developer, who worked to improve the security and privacy of the Internet for all its users. He has worked on several key open source projects, including JRuby, several Ruby libraries, as well as multiple implementations of the secure and open communication protocol OTR. Ola’s team at ThoughtWorks contributed to Certbot, the EFF-managed tool that has provided strong encryption for millions of websites around the world."[14]

Centro de Autonomía Digital

The Centro de Autonomía Digital, a small non-profit organization incorporated in Ecuador and Spain "with the purpose of making the internet a safer place for everyone", of which he is the technical director, published a statement in 2019[15] detailing his contributions and noting that he had been ranked by Computerworld as Sweden's number 6 developer (in 2008[16]), and that he "created two programming languages" and is "a long time Free Software and privacy and transparency activist." The statement listed his contributions to loke, Seph, JesCov, JRuby, JtestR, Yecht, JvYAMLb, JvYAML-gem, RbYAML, Ribs, ActiveRecord-JDBC, Jatha, Xample, and JOpenSSL.[15]

Bini and Sofia Celi described some of their work at the Center in a FOSDEM presentation in February 2019, describing their improvements in deniability and other features in version 4 of Off-the-Record Messaging.[17]

DECODE Project

Bina contributed to the European Union's DECODE Project, aimed at "giving people ownership of their personal data", as an advisory board member.[18]

Arrest in Ecuador

Ola Bini was arrested in an action that appeared to be coordinated with the revocation of asylum and arrest of Julian Assange, whom he counted as a personal friend and visited a dozen times during the time while he was being granted refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. The government did not file charges, but made a statement[19] that Bini had been arrested for an "alleged participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems" that was being investigated. The action appeared to reflect a broad repudiation of the political goals of Rafael Correa by his former Vice President Lenin Moreno: in reference to Bini's arrest, Interior Minister María Paula Romo told media "It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime. But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a center for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over."[20]

The Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, announced on July 27, 2018 that he had begun talks with the British authorities to withdraw the Assange asylum. On April 11, 2019, the asylum was removed and Assange was arrested. Ola Bini was arrested the same day at the Quito airport when he was preparing to board a long-scheduled flight to Japan, to which he had planned to travel for training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, a martial art he had practiced since 2007.[3]

The arrest came a few hours after Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Bini carried at least 30 electronic storage devices.[21][22] In response defense attorney Carlos Soria told Reuters "They are trying to link him with some sort of possible espionage case without any proof or evidence. He is a personal friend of Julian Assange, he is not a member of WikiLeaks, and being friends with somebody is not a crime — neither is having computers in your home."[23] The attorney published a more detailed list of objections.[24]

Romo alleged that Bini had been involved in the plot with two Russian hackers and the former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who had granted asylum to Assange in 2012, asserting that Bini had travelled with the Foreign Minister to Peru, Spain, and Venezuela. Patiño responded, "The interior minister said the Swedish man that was arrested yesterday worked with me. I have never met him. Worse travelled with him. Nor do I know Russian hackers. The only Russians I know are: President Putin, the foreign minister Lavrov and the Russian ambassador."[25][26] The following week Ecuador requested an Interpol Red Notice for Patiño, who fled the country after prosecutors attempted to charge him for encouraging protestors to block roads and enter public institutions the previous year.[27]

Bini's parents, Dag Gustafsson and Gorel Bin, said that their son had been threatened in prison and they would remain in Ecuador until he was released.[28] They spoke at a press conference concerning his appeal and gave a half-hour interview with TeleSUR English.[29] His coworker, Sofía Celi, an Ecuadorian who has published academic papers with him about cryptography and has become a leader of the #FreeOlaBini campaign,[30] said there was a lack of understanding about what "cryptographic and privacy-preserving tools actually mean."[3][31]

An appeal with the Provincial Court of Pichincha was decided 2-1 against Bini on May 3: Judge Inés Romero favored the appeal, but judges Juana Pacheco and Fabián Fabara opposed it.[32][33][34] On June 20, the Pichincha provincial court ruled in favor of Bini's habeas corpus request, ordering his release to occur the following day.[35]

Investigative actions

On May 18 a server was taken from the offices of Telconet, which Ola Bini was described as renting for US$5000 per month.[36] This action was initially described as a seizure during a search of company offices, but the company maintained that no search had occurred and the server was handed over under a mutual agreement.[37]

Questioning by United States

Sources in the Ecuadorian prosecutor's office and the United States Justice Department told Associated Press that Bini would be questioned by the United States on June 27.[38]


Analysis and commentary

News reports of the case[20][23] have suggested that it, like the revocation of Assange's asylum, might be a response to the publication of the "INA Papers" in March 2019,[39] which detailed offshore financial transactions of Lenin Moreno and family members. The papers, which prompted investigation by the legislature, may have been referred to by Interior Minister Romo when she claimed to have "sufficient evidence that [Bini] was collaborating in attempts to destabilize the government."[40] The papers were published on an independent web site[41] and were disclosed in a news story by La Fuente;[42] Wikileaks has denied any role in obtaining or publishing the documents, and Assange himself was closely monitored and cut off from communication within the embassy.[43]

Vijay Prashad, writing for CounterPunch, wrote an editorial in the form of a letter to Bini asking "What do they want you to say, Ola? The U.S. government has Chelsea Manning in prison. They want her to incriminate Assange. Is the Ecuadorian government acting for the U.S. government, asking you to say things about Assange, things that you would obviously not know?" and ending "You are a political prisoner."[44]

An open letter from a group of concerned leading citizens, including Noam Chomsky, Pamela Anderson, and Brian Eno, was published as an editorial in Aftonbladet. It called on the Swedish government to become politically involved in the case at a level beyond ordinary consular assistance.[45][46]


The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a statement that Ecuadorean authorities have "no reason" to detain Bini, writing that "One might expect the Ecuadorean administration to hold up Bini as an example of the high-tech promise of the country, and use his expertise to assist the new administration in securing their infrastructure — just as his own European Union made use of Ola’s expertise when developing its government-funded DECODE privacy project... At EFF, we are familiar with overzealous prosecutors attempting to implicate innocent coders by portraying them as dangerous cyber-masterminds, as well as demonizing the tools and lifestyle of coders that work to defend the security of critical infrastructure, not undermine it. These cases are indicative of an inappropriate tech panic, and their claims are rarely borne out by the facts."[14]

Article 19 called for Bini's release, stating "ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the arrest and illegal detention of Ola Bini is part of a crackdown against the community of developers who build digital security technology tools which enable Internet freedoms and secure communication online."[47] Amnesty International has also commented on his case.[3]

A Free Ola Bini website was established,[48] with a solidarity letter citing many supporting organizations,[49] which urges readers to join a Code Pink campaign supporting his release.[50]


  1. Swedish census 1990, CDROM, riksarkivet.se, ISBN 978-91-88366-90-0
  2. "Team", autonomia.digital, retrieved 23 April 2019
  3. León Cabrera, José María (21 April 2019). "Ecuador detains a friend of Assange. Critics say it's guilt by association". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2019. This article cites Twitter postings by Article 19 and Amnesty International; the former links to Article 19's April 15 statement.
  4. "Github contributions for Ola Bini".
  5. Ola Bini. "ThoughtWorks". On the Record.
  6. Bini, Ola. "Practical JRuby on Rails Web 2.0 Projects: Bringing Ruby on Rails to Java". Google Books. 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2019. (see About the Author, page xxi)
  7. "Google I/O 2009 - JRuby & Ioke on Google App Engine for Java". Google Developers/YouTube. 1 June 2009.
  8. Bini, Ola. "Using JRuby: Bringing Ruby to Java". books.google. 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  9. "Freedom Fest, Hyderabad: An Eye-Opening Experience". ThoughtWorks. 8 April 2014.
  10. "Aaron Swartz". 12 January 2013.
  11. Ola Bini / YouTube video posted by Andrew Delgado (29 November 2013). "Ecuador como paraíso para la privacidad - Ola Bini en #MingaTEC". (this video is cited by José María León Cabrera's 2019-04-21 New York Times reference)
  12. "Dossier: Vigilancia Masiva, Espionaje, y Gobernanza Mundial de Internet (Linea Sur issue 9)" (PDF). Government of Ecuador. April 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  13. Arturo Ledezma (17 May 2015). "Desafíos técnicos y políticos para una Internet más segura". El Ciudadano.
  14. Danny O'Brien (16 April 2019). "The Ecuadorean Authorities Have No Reason to Detain Free Software Developer Ola Bini". Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  15. "Ola Bini arrest". Center for Digital Autonomy. 12 April 2019.
  16. "Ten top developers". Computer Sweden (in Swedish). 5 May 2008.
  17. Sofia Celi and Ola Bini (8 February 2019). "No evidence of communication and implementing a protocol: Off-the-Record protocol version 4 (OTRv4)". FOSDEM. (also available via YouTube)
  18. "Targeted for Being a Friend of Julian Assange? Ola Bini Released After Two Months in Ecuadorian Jail". Democracy Now!. 24 June 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  19. "Ciudadano sueco fue procesado por presunto ataque a la integridad de sistemas informáticos: BOLETÍN DE PRENSA FGE Nº 066-DC-2019". Government of Ecuador. 13 April 2019.
  20. Andrew Blake (13 April 2019). "Assange ally Ola Bini charged in Ecuador following airport arrest". Washington Times.
  21. Catherine, Philp. "Ola Bini, Swedish software developer with ties to Assange, arrested in Ecuador". Times. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  22. Peoples Dispatch. "Software Developer And Privacy Activist Ola Bini Detained in Ecuador on Without Charges". newsclick. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  23. Alexandra Valencia and Luc Cohen (13 April 2019). "Ecuadorean judge orders Swedish citizen close to Assange jailed pending trial". Reuters.
  24. "Press Release on The Detention of Ola Bini". 13 April 2019. (Translation of )
  25. Dan Collins (13 April 2019). "Swedish man jailed in Ecuador over alleged WikiLeaks involvement". The Guardian.
  26. Ricardo Patiño (12 April 2019). "La ministra Interior dijo que un sueco que fue arrestado ayer trabaja conmigo. Nunca en mi vida lo he visto ni conocido. Peor haber viajado con él. Tampoco conozco hackers rusos. A los únicos rusos que conozco son: el presidente Putin, el canciller Lavrov y el embajador ruso. pic.twitter.com/qkClZ0qaOC". Twitter.
  27. Associated Press (19 April 2019). "Ecuador orders arrest of former foreign minister". CTV News.
  28. Andrew Buncombe (17 April 2019). "Ola Bini: Wikileaks collaborator and Assange ally accused of plotting to blackmail Ecuador president faces 'threats in jail', parents say". The Independent.
  29. "From Quito: the detention of Ola Bini". TeleSUR English. 6 May 2019.
  30. "Twitter apadrina a Ola Bini". Espresso.ec. 21 April 2019.
  31. "sofia celi @claucece". 21 April 2019.
  32. "Tribunal negó el pedido de libertad del sueco Ola Bini". El Comercio. 3 May 2019.. The site offers a collection of articles on this topic.
  33. "Ecuador: Tribunal niega pedido de libertad de experto sueco". SFGate. 3 May 2019.
  34. Andrew Blake (3 May 2019). "Ola Bini, friend of Julian Assange, loses bid to be released from Ecuadorian prison". Washington Times.
  35. "Court orders release of Assange pal detained in Ecuador". Associated Press. 20 June 2019.
  36. "Fiscalía y Policía allanan oficinas de Telconet en Quito por el caso Ola Bini". El Comercio. 18 May 2019.
  37. "https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/telconet-allanamiento-quito-ola-bini.html". El Comercio. 19 May 2019. External link in |title= (help)
  38. Associated Press (17 June 2019). "Sources: US to question Assange pal jailed in Ecuador". Washington Post.
  39. "INA Papers: The Corruption Case Against Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno". www.telesurenglish.net. 31 March 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  40. Agencies. "Ecuador arrests Ola Bini, Swedish software developer said to be tied to Julian Assange, trying to 'flee country'". scmp. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  41. "INA Papers". March 2019.
  42. "EL LABERINTO OFFSHORE DEL CÍRCULO PRESIDENCIAL: Se descubre un nuevo personaje en el laberinto de las empresas offshore de la familia presidencial". La Fuente. 19 February 2019.
  43. "Ecuador twists embarrassing INA Papers into pretext to oust Assange". Wikileaks Defence Fund. 3 April 2019.
  44. Vijay Prashad (17 April 2019). "Ola Bini, a Political Prisoner Caught Up in the Assange Debacle". CounterPunch.
  45. Noam Chomsky, Pamela Anderson, Arundhati Roy; et al. (23 April 2019). "Internationellt upprop – Löfvén måste agera för fängslade Ola Bini". Aftonbladet.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) An English translation has been published: Globetrotter/Independent Media Institute (24 April 2019). "Open letter from Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Dave Eggers, Pamela Anderson and many more on behalf of imprisoned tech privacy activist Ola Bini". Nation of Change.
  46. "Int'l Petition Urges Swedish PM to Help 'Wikileaks Collaborator' Held in Ecuador". Sputnik News. 23 April 2019.
  47. "Ecuador: Immediately release software developer Ola Bini". Article 19. 15 April 2019.
  48. "Free Ola Bini!". Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  49. "Free Ola Bini Solidarity Letter". Free Ola Bini website. 16 April 2019.
  50. "#FreeOlaBini". Code Pink. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
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