Presiding judge in Ola Bini case recused after allegations of prejudice

Ola Bini’s defense team argued that the judge acted in a prejudiced manner let and allowed the prosecution to violate the course of the trial

September 12, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Though Ola BIni was released from prison on June 21, the legal persecution against him is not over. Photo: Free Ola BIni

New developments have emerged in the Ola Bini case as the Ecuadorian judge presiding over the trial was recused after being challenged by Bini’s defense team. The defense raised contention over the allegedly prejudiced conduct of Judge Yadira Proaño on the case, allowing undue interference in the case from the prosecutor’s office. According to the Ecuadorian general code of conduct, unless the challenge raised by the defendant has been resolved, the judge can no longer be allowed to preside over the case. A hearing that was scheduled for today on September 12 has been postponed as well, due to the recusal.

The decision comes as a major relief for Bini and his supporters after several reports of political interference in the case. Less than three weeks ago, the prosecution had requested a change in the charges leveled against Bini as it was preparing to wrap up its investigation. The judge allowed for such last minute changes. Later, last Friday September 6, the prosecutor’s office ordered a violent raid at the residence of Fabian Hurtado, a digital forensics expert working with Bini’s defense team. In the course of the raid, Hurtado’s door was broken down and his cellphone and other digital devices were confiscated without a warrant.

According to statements released by Amnesty International in late August and last Friday, which were prompted by the actions of the prosecution, the prosecution, with support from the government, has damaged Bini’s chance of a fair trial. Apart from Amnesty several other organizations have condemned the damage that the prosecution has inflicted on the case. Bini’s defense team has estimated as many as 65 violations of due process by the prosecution.

The persecution of Ola Bini and the violations in the legal process have been deemed by many as part of a larger political crackdown on digital activists. Bini, a Swedish citizen, worked in Ecuador as a cybersecurity expert and an advocate for digital rights. He was arrested hours after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was handed over to the London Metropolitan Police in April  and Bini was held without clear charges for days. As he was a supporter of Assange and his work in the Wikileaks, the case against him has been seen as capitulation on the part of the Moreno government to the interests of the United States.

Currently, the prosecution’s case hinges on a screenshot of a TelNet connection accessed by Bini through an open router, which many have stated has no particularly criminal nature, and an ongoing investigation into his tax records and financial transactions that is yet to yield any results.