A suspected conflict of interest is coming to light in the UK, in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the judicial authority that is in charge of his extradition to the US.
The South Africa-based Daily Maverick is reporting that the husband of the judge guiding the proceedings, Lady Emma Arbuthnot, has “financial links to the British military establishment, including institutions and individuals exposed by WikiLeaks.”
According to the British Parliament data, the judge and her husband in 2014 accepted a gift from Bechtel Management Company, an arm of major US military corporation Bechtel – also a British Defense Ministry contractor in a deal worth £215 million. The gift came in the shape of tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show worth £1,250.
According to the report, Bechtel also specializes in surveillance tech, and was among those exposed by WikiLeaks in 2011.
Arbuthnot, along with her husband, accepted another gift in 2014 from yet another entity “featured” by WikiLeaks. This time the gift – flight expenses worth £2,426 – came from British-Turkish forum Tatlidil, that had the backing of then PM, now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“As subjects of unwanted leaks, both Bechtel and Tatlidil have reason to oppose the work of Assange and WikiLeaks,” the article said, adding, “although the payments were entered into the parliamentary register of interests, the parties in the court case were not informed about them.”
The judge’s husband, Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, is a former British defense minister with active ties with Thales Group and, until recently, with Babcock International – two major Defense Ministry contractors.
The report mentions that Judge Arbuthnot, who has been in charge of the Assange case since 2017, last year ruled that the WikiLeaks founder – who was at the time in the Ecuadorian embassy – was staying there voluntarily, and rejected arguments presented by UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressing concerns for his health, and asserting that he was in reality arbitrarily detained.
The article makes a connection between the timing of this ruling and the fact that Lord Arbuthnot was at the time visiting Turkey, where he met with high ranking officials. Although presenting no proof of a conspiracy between the judge and her husband, the Daily Maverick mentions “an appearance of bias” – particularly given that some of the officials Lord Arbuthnot met with “had been specifically exposed by WikiLeaks and had reason to oppose Assange’s release.”
Lord Arbuthnot himself is described as having ties to former UK intelligence officials “which WikiLeaks has exposed in its publications and which have conducted intelligence operations in the UK against WikiLeaks.”
The report concludes that these personal and professional links could represent a conflict of interest in the ongoing legal case against Assange.