REVEALED: Chief magistrate in Assange case received financial benefits from secretive partner organisations of UK Foreign Office2020-02-222020-02-22https://newcoldwar.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020-NCW-Logo-New.pngNew Cold War: Know Betterhttps://newcoldwar.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/users_iqjWHBFdfxIU_ioqD71R1qshk_v1_piFq5T3pJF0qzS8rF9LjsWaQ_-1x-1-e1582324714440-1600x932-1-e1582391772391.jpg200px200px
Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
It has been revealed that the senior judge overseeing the extradition proceedings of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has received financial benefits from two partner organisations of the British Foreign Office before her appointment.
By Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis
Published on Declassified UK, Feb 21, 2020 _____________________________________________
The senior judge overseeing the extradition proceedings of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received financial benefits from two partner organisations of the British Foreign Office before her appointment, it can be revealed.
It can further be revealed that Lady Emma Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster on the advice of a Conservative government minister with whom she had attended a secretive meeting organised by one of these Foreign Office partner organisations two years before.
Liz Truss, then Justice Secretary, “advised” the Queen to appoint Lady Arbuthnot in October 2016. Two years before, Truss — who is now Trade Secretary — and Lady Arbuthnot both attended an off-the-record two-day meeting in Bilbao, Spain.
The expenses were covered by an organisation called Tertulias, chaired by Lady Arbuthnot’s husband — Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, a former Conservative defence minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community exposed by WikiLeaks.
Tertulias, an annual forum held for political and corporate leaders in the UK and Spain, is regarded by the UK Foreign Office as one of its “partnerships”. The 2014 event in Bilbao was attended by David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, while the Foreign Office has in the past funded Lord Arbuthnot’s attendance at the forum.
The Foreign Office has long taken a strong anti-Assange position, rejecting UN findings in his favour, refusing to recognise the political asylum given to him by Ecuador, and even labelling Assange a “miserable little worm”.
Lady Arbuthnot also benefited financially from another trip with her husband in 2014, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, a forum established by the UK and Turkish governments for “high level” individuals involved in politics and business.
Both Tertulias and Tatlidil are secretive gatherings about which little is known and are not obviously connected — but Declassified has discovered that the UK address of the two organisations has been the same.
Lady Arbuthnot personally presided over Assange’s case as judge from late 2017 until mid-2019, delivering two controversial rulings. Although she is no longer personally hearing the Assange extradition proceedings, she remains responsible for supporting and guiding the junior judges in her jurisdiction. Lady Arbuthnot has refused to declare any conflicts of interest in the case.
The new revelations follow previous investigations by Declassified showing that Lady Arbuthnot received gifts and hospitality in relation to her husband from a military and cybersecurity company exposed by WikiLeaks. Declassified also revealed that the Arbuthnots’ son is linked to an anti-data leak company created by the UK intelligence establishment and staffed by officials recruited from US intelligence agencies behind that country’s prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder.
Lady and Lord Arbuthnot attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2017. Lady Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster by the Queen eight months before, in September 2016, on the advice of Liz Truss, who had attended the 2014 Tertulias event with Lady Arbuthnot. (Photo: Instagram)
The Arbuthnots and Liz Truss
Tertulias’ annual meetings between the UK and Spain have been held since 1989 but the organisation has no public presence and provides no record of events. Declassified found that its current president is Jose de Areilza, a Spanish law professor who is also a board member of the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
Lord Arbuthnot records that he became the unpaid chair of Tertulias in 2012, at which time he was also chair of parliament’s Defence Committee. Arbuthnot was then also a member of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel.
In October 2014, Liz Truss, who was then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), attended the Tertulias meeting in Bilbao, alongside the Arbuthnots, Lidington and at least four other British MPs.
Lord and Lady Arbuthnot spent two days at the event and received expenses worth £1,488.20 from Tertulias. Although having attended the annual event regularly since 2000, this was the first time Lord Arbuthnot recorded in his parliamentary register of interests the attendance of his wife. At the time Lady Arbuthnot was deputy senior district judge. The reason for her attending a meeting described by Lord Arbuthnot as “bringing MPs, business people, academics and artists together to discuss topical issues” is not clear.
Liz Truss was in Bilbao for three days and accrued expenses of £1,235.48 paid by Tertulias. Her flight cost £825.48, suggesting she was flown first class. By contrast, Nick Boles MP charged £178.98 for his flight. The funders of Tertulias and Tatlidil are not known.
The trip to Bilbao was one of only three Truss has accepted from third parties since becoming an MP in 2010. She also joined a group of Conservative MPs on a trip to Berlin in 2011 and attended in 2019 the annual forum of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a highly secretive meeting organised by the most influential neoconservative think tank in Washington populated by senior US military and intelligence officials.
Declassified recently revealed how the AEI, which has a strongly anti-Assange position, has been courting British ministers for years.
Declassified is now publishing a photo of Truss giving a speech at the 2014 Tertulias forum in the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Lord Arbuthnot can be seen standing next to her, likely having just introduced his fellow Conservative MP. It is not known if Lady Arbuthnot was present.
Truss’s visit to Tertulias is secret enough for even the department she oversaw as minister at the time — DEFRA — to have no information on it. Responding to Declassified’s Freedom of Information request for communications between the minister and Tertulias or an itinerary for the Bilbao meeting, DEFRA responded: “Following a search of our paper and electronic records, we have established that the information…you have requested is not held by DEFRA.” It is unclear if Truss used a private email to organise the visit.
The month following the Tertulias forum, in November 2014, Lady Arbuthnot went on another trip with her husband, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, which paid the Arbuthnots £2,426 for flights and expenses.
Lord Arbuthnot described the purpose of the visit as “to promote and further bilateral relations between Britain and Turkey at a high level”. Tatlidil, which means “sweet talk” in Turkish, was established in 2011 by then prime minister David Cameron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It describesits objectives as “facilitating and strengthen [sic] relations between the Republic of Turkey and the United Kingdom at the level of government, diplomacy, business, academia and media”.
The UK delegation to the 2014 meeting in Istanbul was led by Prince Andrew, who also hosted the Tatlidilin Edinburgh the previous year. Then foreign minister Tobias Ellwood spoke at the forum while former foreign secretary Jack Straw, who is a co-chair of Tatlidil, presided over one of the discussions. Erdoğan spoke at the meeting and reportedly called for the removal of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The sparse information available on the meeting, which largely comes from social media, suggests that Lady Arbuthnot may not have attended the discussions since there was a separate “spouses/partners programme” involving local visits.
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