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Anti-arms trade activists demand answers from government over Saudi weapons ship

The Bahri Yanbu, which has ferried hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of weapons to the Gulf state, was due to dock at Tilbury today

ANTI-ARMS-TRADE campaigners are demanding answers from the government over the legality of a Saudi weapons ship that was due to dock at Tilbury today.

The Bahri Yanbu, which has ferried hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of arms to the Gulf state, is stopping off this week at five European countries.

The ship has been given a licence to dock by the British government. But lawyers from Leigh Day, who represent CAAT, are questioning whether this could be in breach of a court order made last year that banned the government from issuing new licences for arms bound to Saudi Arabia, which is deeply involved in a bloody civil war in neighbouring Yemen.

The case, which was brought by CAAT, found that arms sales to the country had been unlawful because Tory ministers had not properly assessed the risk to civilians in Yemen. Letting the Bahri Yanbu to enter British waters may not be consistent with the ruling, the lawyers claim.

CAAT activists, who fear that the ship is carrying arms that could be used against civilians in Yemen, held a protest at Tilbury port today.

The campaign group’s Andrew Smith said: “Arms-dealing governments like the one in the UK have played a central role in strengthening the Saudi dictatorship and fuelling the bombing of Yemen.

“If they want to do the right thing for people in Yemen then they must end all arms exports to the Saudi regime and cease all support for this awful war.”

CAAT’s protest is part of a European-wide effort to block the weapons vessel from docking. The ship is no longer stopping in Antwerp, Belgium, and campaigners plan to block French arms being loaded onto the ship at Cherbourg tomorrow.

According to Amnesty International, the Bahri Yanbu was carrying $47 million (£36m) worth of US-manufactured weapons parts during its last voyage to Europe in 2019.

The Saudi coalition’s air war in Yemen has killed and injured thousands of civilians, including in attacks that allegedly violated international humanitarian law.

Leigh Day has given the government 24 hours to disclose information on the licence. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had not responded to a request for comment by the time the Star went to print.

 

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