Next week London is set to host the world's biggest arms fair

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Saudi Arabia's SAMI is a major customer at DSEI

In the latest bid to oust the world’s largest arms fair from London, the capital’s mayor has reportedly told the organizers that they are not welcome in his city.

The London Mayor’s intervention comes after almost 100 people were arrested at demonstrations against the British government-backed Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair, which is set to open at London’s ExCel centre on Tuesday, September 10.

The DSEI organizes the arms fair in London Docklands once every two years. The event is primarily attended by defence and security companies, government officials and national armed forces representatives from across the world.

There have been a series of protests since last week against DSEI, with reportedly 98 demonstrators arrested.

The event attracted wider controversy after it emerged that at least two journalists have been denied access to the fair.

The London-based Middle East Eye reported on September 04 that one of its senior journalists had been denied access.

Ian Cobain, a veteran war reporter was told by DSEI’s “security team” that his application to cover the arms fair had been rejected.

Similarly, Solomon Hughes of the satirical magazine, Private Eye, has also had his application rejected by DSEI’s security team.

The Independent reported today that Sadiq Khan has sent a letter to the director of DSEI, asserting that the biennial event is opposed by campaigners and Londoners “who do not want weapons to be traded in their city”.

Furthermore, The Independent reports that 2,800 police officer shifts are required to police the 12-day operation.

The DSEI arms fair is supported by the British Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Trade (DTI), which has a dedicated division focused on arms exports.

The fair attracts controversial customers from around the world, notably Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the Kingdom’s state-owned defence company.

The involvement of SAMI in the arms fair is extremely controversial due to Saudi Arabia’s leading role in the War on Yemen which has resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians since March 2015.  

The DTI reported in late July that Britain won defence orders to the tune of £14 billion in 2018, making the country the world’s second biggest arms exporter.

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