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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK


UK Politics

Protests at arms show

Police arrested protesters who blockaded the arms fair

Scuffles broke out at the opening of an international defence show when anti-arms trade campaigners lay down in front of delegates' cars.

East Timor
More than 200 human rights demonstrators - many opposed to Indonesia's role in East Timor - shouted "shame on you" at the entrance to the Defence Systems Equipment International 99 Show in Chertsey, Surrey.

Five protesters were arrested, and more than one hundred police officers removed some of the campaigners blocking the entrance to the government-sponsored event.


[ image: One protester locked himself to a minivan]
One protester locked himself to a minivan
Many demonstrators carried banners saying "Stop Deals in Death" and "Solidarity with East Timor".

More than 20,000 delegates are expected at the four-day exhibition.

The UK has supplied more than 40 Hawk trainer jets to Indonesia since the early 1980s but suspended arms deals at the weekend.

Jakarta, which declined an invitation to attend the exhibition, is still awaiting delivery of most of an order for 16 planes under a deal struck in 1996.


[ image:  ]
Protesters believe the jets are being used to oppress the East Timorese, which has been engulfed in violence since overwhelmingly voting for independence.

They are also angry that the show is being held on Ministry of Defence land and was opened by Defence Secretary Lord Robertson.

Campaign Against the Arms Trade spokeswoman Rachel Harford said: "We are not prepared to allow Tony Blair's Government to host an exhibition in our name and with our money where delegations from human rights abusing countries will doubtless be invited to buy arms."

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn addressed the crowd, speaking of his experiences as an observer at the elections in East Timor.


[ image: Lord Robertson: Under fire for opening the arms show]
Lord Robertson: Under fire for opening the arms show
He then criticised Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, saying the UK's sale of arms to Indonesia breached Labour's pledge on ethical foreign policy.

"Visitors are coming here to buy weapons that will be used to kill people at some time somewhere in the world," he said.

"There is no point in condemning human rights abuses around the world if we are selling weapons which the death squads are using."


Lord Robertson interviewed on the BBC's Today programme
But Lord Robertson, the Nato Secretary General-designate, told the BBC it was inappropriate to "draw a direct connection between British arms sales, even in the past, with what is going on, on the ground in Dili and the other towns in East Timor".

He said there had been a "dramatic reduction" in the amount of arms being sold to the Indonesian government since Labour came to power.

He also said the UK did not sell arms that it thought would be used for internal repression and added that firepower produced by the UK was not "openly on sale to anyone who wants it".





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Internet Links


East Timor Action Network

Government of Indonesia

Spearhead

Amnesty International

Campaign Against the Arms Trade


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