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Germany halts arms exports to Saudis

Germany has decided to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia because of "instability in the region," German daily Bild reported on Sunday.

Germany halts arms exports to Saudis
A German Leopard tank like the ones sold to the Saudis in 2011. Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegman

Weapons orders from Saudi Arabia have either been "rejected, pure and simple," or deferred for further consideration, the newspaper said, adding that the information has not been officially confirmed. 

The decision was taken on Wednesday by the national security council, a government body that includes Chancellor Angela Merkel, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and seven other ministers, it said.

"According to government sources, the situation in the region is too unstable to ship arms there," added the daily.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict and highly conservative form of Islam, and as home to some of its holiest sites plays a key role as a spiritual leader for Sunni Muslims and mediator in the Middle East.

Its importance was made clear on Saturday when world leaders converged on Riyadh to offer condolences following the death of King Abdullah, including Britain's prime minister and France's president. Germany was represented by former president Christian Wulff.

The kingdom is "one of the most important clients of Germany's arms industry", with €360 million of arms shipments authorised in 2013, Bild said.

But it has also come under fire from human rights groups for its harsh treatment of religious minorities and women, as well as the lack of transparency in its legal system.

A survey carried out for Bild found that 78 percent of Germans believe Berlin should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia – and a further 60 percent want to break off trade ties all together – due to human rights violations.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Saturday vowed that Germany would do all in its power to resolve the fate of the blogger condemned to 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia.

"The penalty handed down to Raef Badawi is cruel, bad, unjust and totally disproportionate," Steinmeier said in comments to appear on Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper.
 

The 30-year-old Saudi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and is serving a 10-year jail term.

He received the first 50 lashes of his sentence outside a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on January 9th.

"You can be sure that we will continue to do everything we can to promote a solution," to the Badawi case, Steinmeier said, adding that "the question of human rights plays a very important role in discussions between Berlin and Riyadh, even outside of this matter".

WEAPONS

‘Feeling of insecurity’: Alarm gun ownership on the rise in Germany

A new survey shows an increasing number of people throughout Germany hold a certificate needed to carry an alarm gun.

'Feeling of insecurity': Alarm gun ownership on the rise in Germany
Photo: DPA

The number of people holding this type of permit has risen dramatically in Germany. Currently 640,000 citizens are entitled to carry an alarm gun, up from 260,000 in 2014, according to a survey conducted by RP Online of all 16 German states. 

In total, there are currently around 5.4 million privately owned weapons in Germany, or 66 weapons per 1000 inhabitants.

In the past 12 months, the increase amounted to around nine percent compared to the same period last year.

In relation to the population, the proportion of alarm gun licence holders is highest in the far northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein, followed by the southern state of Saarland.

The “small weapons permit” is relatively easy to acquire in Germany. They are usually available to anyone over 18 with no previous serious criminal convictions, and who is considered “physically and mentally fit.”

The permits allow people to carry a pistol that fires loud blanks in public, though such pistols can be kept at home without a license.

Latent feeling of insecurity

The Police Union (GdP) told RP Online that the rise is due to a “latent feeling of insecurity” among the population.

“Since the events in Cologne's Cathedral on New Year's Eve 2015, more and more people are feeling insecure,” said the GdP chairman Oliver Malchow, referring to the sexual attacks on women at that time by groups of young men from North African and Arab states. 

READ ALSO: How Cologne sexual assaults 'changed German mood completely'

“The problematic increase in alarm gun licenses shows that we must work to restore a sense of security to many citizens,” Malchow said. “A first important step would be a greater police presence on the street.” 

In Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, 162,952 alarm gun licenses were registered on June 30th. 

At 7.1 percent, the increase over the same period last year was below the national average. Yet there are many alarm gun holders in the western state.

For every 1,000 inhabitants, there are around nine alarm gun licences. Only in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein is this figure higher. 

The northernmost German state also recorded the highest annual increase with around 15 percent. 

Strict gun laws

When it comes to gun laws in general, Germany has some of the strictest in Europe. To get a gun, Germans must first obtain a firearms ownership license, and need one for each weapon they buy, or a license to carry.

Applicants for a license must be at least 18 years old and undergo what's called a reliability check, which includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have mental illness or any other attributes that might make them questionable to authorities.

Authorities also have the right to revoke this license under questionable circumstances. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, 1,236 firearms ownership licenses were revoked in 2018.

While Germany has had a few high-profile incidents involving guns over the past year – such as the murder of a Kassel politician by a right-wing extremist – it has one of the lowest rates of gun related deaths worldwide.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about guns in Germany

Vocabulary

to arm oneself – Bewaffnen sich

Small weapons permit – Kleiner Waffenschein

latent feeling of insecurity – (das) latente Unsicherheitsgefühl

firearms ownership license – (die) Waffenbesitzkarte

License to carry a firearm – (der) Waffenschein

Assaults – (die) Übergriffe

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.

We amended this story to clarify it was for alarm gun licenses and not firearm licenses.

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