Julian Assange WikiLeaks

Let’s take a quick look at the eyebrow-raising employment record of the family of Emma Arbuthnot — the British judge overseeing Julian Assange’s extradition.

Arbuthnot ruled in 2018 that a warrant against Assange was valid, saying that Assange believed he was “above the law”. She is the wife of Lord James Arbuthnot, a former Conservative politician who has held multiple jobs in the defence industry over the last two decades, including with companies exposed by WikiLeaks.

James — Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom to his friends — currently has a paid role on the advisory board of Thales Group, and until earlier this year was an adviser to arms company Babcock International. Both companies have major contracts with the UK Ministry of Defence.

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South African news site Daily Maverick has dug into how Arbuthnot herself has received gifts from companies targeted by WikiLeaks.

In a further twist, the Maverick reports that the Arbuthnot’s son Alexander is the vice-president of a firm that is heavily invested in an anti-data leak company founded by British intelligence agencies GCHQ and MI5. Apart from her ruling on Assange, Arbuthnot now oversees the junior judge in his extradition, Vanessa Baraitser.

Assange’s lawyers were shut down in April when bringing up Arbuthnot’s alleged conflict of interest.

But perhaps it has had some effect. At an event in Sydney last Friday, WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson was speaking to former ABC veteran Quentin Dempster and said Arbuthnot will “not be sitting on the case, going forward“. All of which — Arbuthnot’s family ties and withdrawal from the trial, related or not — sounds like bigger news than the modest local coverage would imply.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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