Amid Uproar, Saudi Ship Leaves France without Arms Cargo
By Staff, Agencies
A Saudi vessel that was due to load weapons at a northern French port has set sail without them and headed towards Spain on Friday, a day after a rights group tried to block the cargo on humanitarian grounds.
The Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture [ACAT] sought to block the loading of weapons onto the ship through a legal filing on Thursday, arguing the cargo contravened an international arms treaty.
A French judge threw out their complaint but the Bahri-Yanbu moved off the coast of Le Havre shortly after.
It was not immediately clear what had caused the change of plan.
"The boat has left and without its cargo," Laurence Greig, a lawyer representing ACAT told Reuters news agency.
"It is extremely embarrassing for the executive because we thought that we could stop this only with a legal recourse. But while we got a very terse decision against us, pressure from individuals and NGOs led to a positive result."
The legal move by ACAT came weeks after an online investigative site published leaked French military intelligence that showed weapons sold to the kingdom, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, were being used against civilians in Yemen's war.
Saudi Arabia leads a brutal military coalition that has been bombing the country since more than four years of war that has devastated Yemen, killed tens of thousands and left much of the population on the brink of famine.
France is one of Saudi Arabia's main arms' suppliers, delivering some $1.5bn of weapons to Riyadh in 2017.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron defended the arms sales, describing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as allies and claiming thay Paris had received guarantees they would not be used against civilians.