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Ministers urged to axe Egypt arms deal over jailed journalists case

COALITION ministers faced calls yesterday to axe all arms deals with Egypt as three Al-Jazeera journalists began lengthy jail sentences.

Human rights activists pressed Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable after an Egyptian court imprisoned Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed for terror offences following a sham trial.

The three were convicted of “spreading false news” and lending support to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Greste and Mr Fahmy were sentenced to seven years while producer Mr Mohammed got 10.

Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters on Monday that he was “completely appalled.”

But activists challenged him to justify his government’s policy of lending practical support to country with a surge of arms deals.

British trade officials approved £51 million worth of arms licences in 2013 alone, with £70m worth of shipments signed off in the three years since the Arab Spring protests — more than 10 times the combined value of shipments in the previous three years.

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith expressed dismay that Britain’s exports had continued even after an international outcry last August, when rooftop snipers shot hundreds of pro-Brotherhood protesters during a Cairo sit-in.

Mr Smith said arms shipments were a tacit gesture of support “whether or not they can directly be used in repression.”

A Business Department spokeswoman would not say whether it would consider a ban.

“Our position is clear — we will not grant export licences where there is a clear risk that goods might be used for internal repression,” she insisted.

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