Israeli firm tossed out of UK fair for selling torture weapons
Jerusalem Post | September 23 2005
In the shadow of threats against retired Israeli generals over war crimes, organizers of one of the world's largest international arms fairs in London tossed out an Israeli company for offering stun guns, leg irons and other "weapons of torture."
The firm, TAR Ideal Concepts, was forced to leave Britain while customs officials considered what action to take against them. The company was in town for the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition, held last week.
"It turned out that we are great criminals because in our catalogue we were offering leg cuffs and stun guns and batons," said company head Tomer Avnon. "And don't forget we were among booths offering everything from sniper rifles to silencers, cluster bombs and all sorts of nasty stuff. It's the height of hypocrisy," Avnon told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview.
"It's beyond ridiculous, particularly since we had received permission from the organizers who approved all of our brochures."
Held every two years in London's Docklands, the arms fair is Europe's biggest, offering everything from war ships to surveillance equipment.
But the arms show also became a magnet for pressure groups who abhor the weapons trade and held daily protests there. Israeli defense firms were particularly targeted in Internet sites run by anti-arms protesters.
Avnon said his company supplied non-lethal riot control gear as well as equipment for counterterrorism and homeland security, including protective vests helmets, infantry gear and canine services.
He said that a reporter had passed himself off as a buyer and took a brochure. The next day, the London-based Guardian ran a story "exposing" TAR's violation of a ban on selling stun weapons and leg irons. According to the Guardian the British government last year extended its controls on the trade in stun weapons and leg irons by making it illegal for anyone to promote their sale in Britain.
Avnon reported that fair officials approached his booth on Friday, the last day of the four-day exhibition, and shut him down.
"They were flanked by huge bodyguards and told us in no uncertain terms that if we didn't leave they would tear down our booth and toss us out," said Avnon. "'Better get yourselves a lawyer because you are going to jail,'" Avnon quoted one of the organizers.
Avnon said he was aware of the ban on the items considered to be – wrongly in his eyes – weapons of torture.
"On page three of our catalogue were photos of these 'awful weapons of torture,' leg cuffs," Avnon said.
He was convinced that the singling out of Israeli firms came from the same anti-Israeli motivations that led to the harassment of retired IDF officers.
"It is as if we are harming human rights. I wouldn't be surprised if it all originated from the same source," Avnon said.
The irony of the whole ordeal, Avnon said, was that there had been enormous interest in his non-lethal weapons.
Officials from DSEI could not be reached for comment