The recent violation of Assange’s rights as both political asylee and citizen of Ecuador sends a chilling message to Ecuadorians who are being increasingly targeted for their political views both within Ecuador and abroad.
'QUITO, ECUADOR — Last week, Ecuador’s government gravely undermined not only its own national sovereignty but international refugee and asylum laws by allowing U.K. police into its London embassy to arrest then-Ecuadorian citizen, Ecuadorian asylee, and journalist Julian Assange.
As has been observed by many analysts, the shocking yet somewhat anticipated decision has shown that Ecuador’s government — led by Lenín Moreno — is willing to play fast and loose with its domestic laws, as well as international law, if it stands to benefit Moreno and his increasingly unpopular administration, whose approval rating now hovers at around 30 percent.
In the hours that followed Assange’s disturbing arrest, which saw him dragged from the embassy by British police, Ecuador’s government has wasted no time in taking actions that are not only highly troubling but show Moreno’s willingness to embrace fascist tactics in his desperate bid to silence dissent.
Indeed, a key factor in Moreno’s decision to revoke Assange’s asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship, was alleged to be Moreno’s rage at WikiLeaks — the organization Assange founded but no longer runs — for simply retweeting and spreading information regarding the burgeoning INA Papers corruption scandal, which centers around an offshore bank account in Panama linked to Moreno and his family. Notably, the firestorm of media coverage around Assange’s violent removal from the embassy has distracted from the media coverage of the scandal.
The witch hunt begins
Shortly after Assange was arrested inside Ecuador’s London embassy, Moreno’s government began what has been described as a “witch hunt” against Assange allies living within Ecuador. Just hours after Assange was arrested, Ecuador arrested Swedish national Ola Bini as Bini attempted to board a flight to Japan. Bini, who was living in Ecuador with valid work and residency permits, was held in detention without a hearing for 30 hours — the legal limit is 24 hours — and was only provided access to a lawyer after 17 hours.
At the hearing, which was held around 11 p.m. local time, Ecuador requested that Bini be given 90 days of pre-trial detention. Notably, Ecuador did not notify the Swedish Embassy in Ecuador of Bini’s arrest, a violation of international protocol. On Saturday, Ecuador’s government claimed that Bini had been charged for “his alleged participation in the crime of assault on the integrity of computer systems.” The only evidence against him was the presence of several electronic devices found in his residence and his having made several trips abroad in recent years.
Bini was arrested not long after Ecuador’s Minister of the Interior María Paula Romo had claimed on Thursday that “Russian hackers” were present in Ecuador and — along with a WikiLeaks member — were seeking to “destabilize” the Moreno-led government and “blackmail” Moreno. Notably, prior to his arrest, Bini had tweeted about Romo’s claims and likened it to a “witch hunt.”'
Read more: After Assange’s Arrest, Ecuador’s Creep Towards Authoritarianism Becomes a Sprint