Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Companies ejected at arms show

HUGELY EMBARRASSING While the UK bans the sale of equipment that can be used for torture, it allows cuffs with chains that measure between 240mm and 280mm

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

An arms fair protester holds a sign near the Excel exhibition center in London on Tuesday outside the Defense Systems and Equipment International Exhibition. More than 1,200 exhibitors and military delegations from 36 countries are attending the show.

PHOTO: AP

Two companies were ejected last night from Britain's biggest arms fair for promoting leg irons for prisoners and battlefield captors.

BCB International, a British-based firm, and Famous Glory Holding, a Chinese company, were thrown out of the biennial Defense Systems and Equipment show, which opened in London's Docklands on Tuesday.

Although the type of leg irons on offer appear to escape the government's ban on the sale and export of equipment that can be used for repression and torture, their promotion is hugely embarrassing to the exhibition's organizers.

The two companies were told to leave, allegedly for breach of contract, by Reed Elsevier, organizers of the fair.

BCB denied trying to sell leg irons.

Andrew Howell, its managing director, said the organizers had "misinterpreted" equipment in their catalogue, adding they were not advertising leg irons but "light extendable flexible" cuffs used to restrain hands.

Howell said a DVD promoting his firm's equipment, which contained a photograph of the cuff, was 10 years old.

He said ejection from the trade exhibition was "totally unfair" and that his firm had been questioned by customs officials on Tuesday.

A representative of Famous Glory Holding made no comment.

The UK government and Reed Elsevier have tried to improve the image of the arms exhibition. Arms companies this year were told not to show off cluster weapons which, while not illegal, are widely condemned because the unexploded "bomblets" they scatter over a wide area maim and kill civilians.

At least one company was told not to promote its cluster bombs at the fair despite its strong attempts to do so.

The UK government last year altered the rules to allow the export of leg irons, cuffs and shackles if their chains were between 240mm and 280mm long. However, the UK Foreign Office Web site lists a range of equipment that it says the government wants to control.

The list includes "stun guns and tasers and specially designed components for such devices, leg irons, gang chains, shackles (excluding normal handcuffs) and electric-shock belts designed for the restraint of a human being."

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