Concern at Turkish use of its 'Land Rover'

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TURKISH and Algerian security forces, widely criticised for brutal human rights abuses against civilians, are being supplied with armoured Land Rover-style vehicles which have been fitted with engines made in Britain.

Land Rover claims the vehicles are used for patrolling, not for "aggressive military-style operations . . . and don't even have machine guns fitted." However, brochures for Scorpion armour-ed personnel carriers built by the Otokar company in Turkey - which are armoured Land Rov-ers in all but name - show them equipped with heavy machine guns and anti-tank weapons.

The British Government says it does not allow exports of equipment likely to be used in "internal repression". But despite compelling evidence that Land Rover Defender four-wheel-drives and the locally made Scorpions have been used in operations against civilians in south-eastern Turkey, the Foreign Office says that as Land Rover parts are "commercial items not specifically designed for military use . . . no licence is required for their export".

According to Amnesty International, Land Rovers and other vehicles supplied by Nato allies to the Turkish military are regularly used by the security services while committing grave human rights abuses against civilians. Last September Bedri Tan, headman of a Kurdish village, was interrogated under torture in his home before being taken away in a paramilitary police Land Rover, according to a recent Amnesty report. The next day the family were called to the police headquarters to pick up his body which had been dismembered. Both the Turkish and Algerian security forces, which have begun taking delivery of 700 Scorpions from Turkey, have been implicated in numerous "disappearances" of civilians during their struggles against armed insurgencies.

Otokar, which has been making Land Rovers in Istanbul for the civilian and military markets since 1987, designed the Scorpion as a low-level conflict and counter-insurgency vehicle. Based on the armoured Land Rovers which the British army used to patrol the streets of Northern Ireland, it can be adapted to carry anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. The first production Scorpion vehicles came into service last summer after extensive trials in Britain and have seen service in Turkey's recent push against the Kurds in northern Iraq, according to Kurdish sources. The vehicles are powered by Land Rover V-8 petrol engines or Rover turbo-charged diesels made in Britain. About 70 per cent of the automotive components are made in Britain, drawn from the Land Rover Defender. Otokar advertises the Scorpion as a light reconnaissance vehicle, ideal formilitary escort and light attack.

The vehicles have steel hulls which offer protection againstshells fired at point-blank range. The Campaign Against Arms Trade says "anything that goes to a police or military should have an export licence, particularly Turkey, which is engaged in a war against its own people".