Defence technology engineers Rheinmetall, after much protestation from both Green and left-wing politicians and human rights activists, has secretly closed a deal to send at least 104 Leopard armoured tanks and three armoured bridges to Indonesia, Der Spiegel news magazine discovered.
The information emerged after the magazine learned that Green party members of parliament had asked the government for an update on the deal. The MPs were told the government had given the deal the final green light.
Indonesia made it clear last autumn that it wanted to buy German tanks – a request that Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall had been considering since. A similar request to the Dutch government was rejected because of human rights concerns.
The deal with Southeast Asia's biggest economy also includes 10 other tanks, including vehicles used in mountain terrain, mobile bridge layers and armoured earth movers. The total price of the contract was not known.
The Indonesian government, when it made the request last year, stressed that the tanks were needed only to replace their own ailing military equipment, and were not for an operation against its own people, Der Spiegel reported.
Yet human rights activists voiced concern, pointing out that Indonesia came in 100th place on the list of most corrupt countries in the world, compiled by Transparency International. Amnesty International has also brought huge human rights violations in some areas of the country to light.
Opposition parties in Indonesia's former colonial power the Netherlands had
stopped a proposed tank deal with the country, citing the risk Jakarta would
use them to suppress Christian and other minorities.
The Merkel government, however, has promoted weapons sales to countries it consider sstrategic partners and also recently approved controversial weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.