Man 'close' to Wikileaks co-founder arrested in Ecuador

Man ‘close’ to Wikileaks co-founder arrested in Ecuador

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A man with close ties to Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s interior ministry says.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo did not name the man but said he had been arrested for “investigative purposes”.

An unnamed government official told the Associated Press that the man is Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer.

It comes just hours after Assange was himself arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“A person close to Wikileaks, who has been residing in Ecuador, was arrested this afternoon when he was preparing to travel to Japan,” Ecuador’s interior ministry tweeted late on Thursday.

The man has lived in Ecuador for several years and has frequently travelled to the country’s London embassy where Assange had been staying, Ms Romo told CNN’s Spanish language service.

“He has been detained simply for investigation purposes,” she said.

An Ecuadorean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Mr Bini had been arrested at Quito Airport.

As news of the arrest broke, friends and colleagues of Mr Bini expressed their concern on social media.

“I’m very concerned to hear that [he]has been arrested,” Martin Fowler, a US-based computer programmer, tweeted. “He is a strong advocate and developer supporting privacy and has not been able to speak to any lawyers.”

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Romo held a press conference and said a person with close links to Wikileaks was living in Ecuador.

In response, Mr Bini said on Twitter that her comments showed a “witch hunt” was under way.

What happened on Thursday?

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday and the Metropolitan Police say they were then invited into the embassy to arrest him.

He took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

After his arrest, Assange was taken to a central London court and found guilty of failing to surrender to the court in 2012.

As well as that charge, he now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite him to the US. His lawyer said they would fight the extradition request because it set a “dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future.”

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