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Arms activists take firms to court for illegal equipment

Peace activists announced plans to privately prosecute two international arms dealers

Peace activists announced plans yesterday to privately prosecute two international arms dealers who exhibited illegal torture equipment at the 2013 DSEI arms fair in London.

Stop the Arms Fair campaigners have launched a legal bid against French firm Magforce International and Beijing-based Tianjin MyWay International Trading for promoting illegal equipment including leg irons and stun batons for sale.

Both companies were expelled from the fair after activists and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas brought it to the attention of Parliament and the organiser that the firms were advertising products forbidden under British law.

In a statement the campaign said it stood against the arms show "and everything it represents - the corruption, the human misery and the profiteering by a narrow elite at the expense of people and planet."

Several activists were arrested for interrupting the fair and throughout their trial Stop the Arms Fair tried to extract an admission from DSEI organisers that British law had been broken inside the event.

DSEI finally dropped most of its complaints last month.

"We fully support the activists. It is no surprise that an event with as little regulation and oversight as DSEI will have companies breaking the law," said Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith.

"What we find more surprising is that it is even possible for an event like DSEI, which brings some of the world's largest arms producers together with some of the most repressive governments, could be legal in the first place."

An arms consultancy company hired by campaigners said that many of the products in the companies' catalogues "fit the description of prohibited weapons."

Magforce International and Tianjin MyWay International Trading are set to appear at Thames magistrates' court to answer the allegations.

Stop the Arms Fair believes the court bid will help "discredit and then stop the DSEI arms fair for good."

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