Ecuador’s police have detained an accomplice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said on Thursday, TASS reported.
"A person who is close to him lives here, we have convincing evidence that he maintained contacts with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. He was detained this afternoon," she told Sonorama radio station.
Assange’s accomplice was hauled off at the airport when he tried to fly to Japan.
At a news conference, Roma said that Ecuador’s authorities had information that a person close to Assange, who lives in Ecuador, "contributed to the attempts of destabilizing the situation in the country with the goal of harming the government."
Daily Express reported citing journalist Vijay Prashad that the detained individual was Swedish national Ola Bini, a WikiLeaks software developer. He does not speak Spanish.
In 2006, Assange set up WikiLeaks that published classified documents on certain governments, including the US. In 2012, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, which had issued a warrant for his arrest on sexual harassment and rape charges. He was holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years.
On Thursday, Ecuador terminated political asylum of Assange. British police arrested Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy for breaching bail issued in 2012 and on a US extradition warrant issued in 2018.
Assange’s attorneys fear that in case of his handover to the US, he may face up to 35 years in jail or capital punishment. However, the US Department of Justice claims that the Australian faces just five years behind bars on hacking charges.