UK arms companies face a week of protest and prayer

By staff writers
3 Jun 2008

Arms companies are facing a week of protests across the UK after a year of increasing public opposition to the arms trade. Stop the Arms Trade Week is underway and runs until 8 June 2008 - involving people of all faiths and none.

With events including an Arms Trade Walking Tour of London and a display at the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, the week of action is encouraging people to take local action over an international problem with a strong national component - the role of the UK government.

Other locations include Birmingham, Lancashire and Kent. Each event is organised by local residents, with the Week as a whole co-ordinated by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). All events will be strictly nonviolent, CAAT stresses.

The CAAT Christian Network will mark the end of the Week with Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer on Sunday 8 June. Churches and other Christian groups across the UK will take part. The Network brings together CAAT's Christian supporters (CAAT as a whole includes people of all faiths and none).

The Week comes after a year of significant successes for CAAT. In April 2008 the High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully in cutting short a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals.

The same month saw the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a government-run agency to promote private arms sales, which has been replaced by a weaker unit. Last week the company Reed Elsevier sold its arms fairs in response to a public campaign.

CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "Local people from Hastings to Edinburgh, from Sussex to Saddleworth, are standing up to tell the government that the arms trade does not have public support. Not only does this trade fuel war and perpetuate poverty around the world, but the UK's economy is undermined by approximately £850 million of taxpayers' money wasted every year on subsidies for arms dealers. British democracy is threatened when an arms company such as BAE is so powerful that it can successfully lobby to have a criminal investigation dropped. People from all walks of life are rejecting the excuses made for the arms trade."

The CAAT Christian Network will mark the end of the Week with Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer on Sunday 8 June. Churches and other Christian groups across the UK will take part. The Network brings together CAAT's Christian supporters (CAAT as a whole includes people of all faiths and none).

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