The Guardian: UK sells arms to Turkey as Erdoğan continues crackdown

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The London-based Guardian daily said in an article on Sunday that the British government has been turning a blind eye to human rights violations of government critics in Turkey since a failed coup attempt last July for the sake of its arms sales to the Turkish government.

An article by Jamie Doward said Britain has sold almost £50 million ($62 million) in arms to Turkey since the crackdown on opposition groups by the Turkish government under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to newly published export statistics of the British government, Turkey is now a major buyer of UK-made weapons.

Between 1 July and 30 September, the UK sold Turkey £26m-worth of ML13 licenses, which relate to exports of armored plate, body armor and helmets. In addition, Britain sold Turkey £8.5m-worth of ML10 licenses, for aircraft, helicopters and drones, and almost £4m-worth of ML4 licenses, for missiles, bombs and ‘counter-measures’,” the article said.

Underlining that Turkey is on the Department for International Trade’s list of “priority markets” for arms exports, The Guardian said the UK has sold Turkey £330m worth of arms since 2015.

According to the daily, the sales come amid mounting concerns about the abuse of human rights.

The Guardian also quoted a British government spokesperson as saying: “The UK takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine every application on a case by case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. Our export licensing system allows us to respond quickly to changing facts on the ground. We have suspended or revoked licenses when the level of risk changes and we constantly review local situations.”

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 90,000 detained and over 41,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.

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