KURDISH solidarity campaigners joined anti-arms trade activists in branding the government “appalling” today for overseeing arms sales to Turkey on the same day that an opposition leader was put on trial.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox travelled to Turkey for a visit to build on the “strong foundations” laid when Prime Minister Theresa May met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last January, striking a £100 million fighter-jet deal.
Turkey has been under a state of emergency since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, with hundreds of journalists jailed and over 100,000 public-sector workers sacked in the ensuing clampdown.
Opposition MPs and activists from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested in November 2016, including co-leader Selahattin Demirtas who appeared in an Istanbul courtroom today.
The United Nations warned that there are more than half a million people displaced in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south-east, where cities including Nusaybin and Cizre have been flattened by the Turkish military in an attempt to “flush out” Kurdistan Workers Party guerillas.
Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith said Mr Fox should use his visit to promote human rights, not arms sales.
“He should put the interest and rights of Turkish people above arms company profits,” he said.
Britain has licensed £415 million worth of arms to Ankara since Mr Erdogan became president in August 2014, having previously ruled as prime minister since 2003.
A recent poll from Opinium found that 68 per cent of British adults oppose arms exports to Turkey, with only 13 per cent in favour.
Despite its appalling human rights record, Turkey remains a “priority market” for British arms sales.
Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign co-secretary Rosa Gilbert condemned Mr Fox's trip as “utterly appalling” on the day an opposition MP went on trial “following a politically orchestrated judicial set-up.
"Our disgraced government is flogging weapons to the very regime that is repressing him and his party, the HDP.
“This is a regime whose military has attacked Kurdish civilians in south-east Turkey and northern Syria, yet our government sees no problem with facilitating their actions.”
Ms Gilbert argued that most British people would be appalled at Mr Fox making trade deals with “a regime that has supported Isis militarily and financially.”
The Department for International Trade had not responded to the Star’s request for comment at the time of going to press.
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