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Cameron backs out of Saudi deal amid concerns over public flogging case

Downing Street has announced it will not go ahead with a deal to provide prison training to Saudi Arabia. The moves comes amid growing controversy over a case involving an imprisoned Briton in the Gulf state.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Tuesday it was scrapping a plan to sell prison expertise to Saudi Arabia, amid growing outrage over the case of a British citizen sentenced to public flogging in the Gulf state.

The deal, which was worth 5.9 million British pounds ($9 million, 7.9 million euros), had drawn criticism from various lawmakers and organizations critical of Riyadh's human rights record.

A spokeswoman for the government said the decision to pull out of the deal was not related to the case of Karl Andree, the Briton being held prisoner in Saudi Arabia.

However, she did not acknowledge the case at the same press conference, calling it "extremely concerning" and telling reporters Cameron was planning to write to Riyadh over the issue.

'Potentially a death sentence'

The 74-year-old Andree was sentenced to prison for 12 months by Saudi authorities a year ago after being caught with alcohol. Though he served his time, the Briton is slated for further punishment - up to 350 lashes in public.

The man's son asked Cameron to intervene. "He's an old frail man and I fear this lashing sentence is potentially a death sentence for him," Simon Andree said, according to Reuters news agency.

Britain maintains close ties with Saudi Arabia, providing the country with many of its weapons. Human rights group Amnesty International called on Downing Street to stop its arm supply to Riyadh, which is also participating in a controversial war in Yemen.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, was among those who spoke out against the prison training deal.

"We should be sending a strong message to repressive regimes that the UK is a beacon for human rights and that this contract bid is unacceptable in the 21st century," Corbyn said.

Earlier today, France's prime minister

announced

the country had signed deals with Saudi Arabia worth billions of dollars.

blc/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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