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17 Oct 2017

Olivia Alabaster, Middle East Eye

Bahrain’s first major arms fair, brought to you by British organisers

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Geopolitical rivalries and accusations of human rights abuses were ignored, as the first international arms fair in Bahrain opened its doors, with pavilions from both the US and Russia. The Bahrain International Defence Exhibition and Conference (BIDEC) 2017, which runs over three days, is being organised by British company Clarion Events..[The conference] was condemned by human rights activists, who challenge Bahrain's years-long, violent campaign against dissent and protests against the government. "The UK public do not want our taxes to be spent promoting weapons sales to Bahrain and the other human-rights abusing regimes attending BIDEC," echoed the Campaign Against Arms Trade, in a statement...The UK has sold at least $85m of arms to Bahrain between 2000 and 2016, according to data from the Stockholm international Peace Research Institute. From June 2016 to June 2017, Bahrain’s government arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel at least 169 activists and opponents or their relatives, an Amnesty report said...A spokesperson for the UK government’s Department for International Trade Defence and Security Organisation...[said]:"I can confirm that [the UK government] takes a number of factors into account before deciding to exhibit at overseas exhibitions...You will be aware that the UK has one of the most stringent export licence criteria."

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