Karl Andree: British grandfather facing 350 lashes in Saudi Arabia 'to be released within a week'

Mr Andree, 74, has been in prison for more than a year

Nigel Morris
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 28 October 2015 16:17 GMT
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Mr Andree's family were worried he would not survive if the punishment was carried out
Mr Andree's family were worried he would not survive if the punishment was carried out

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A British grandfather who faced being flogged for breaking Saudi Arabia’s anti-alcohol laws is to be freed as the two nations attempt to repair their diplomatic rift.

Karl Andree’s release was announced by Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, during a visit which comes just days after the Saudi ambassador to Britain warned of an “alarming change” in the relationship between the countries.

Relations cooled dramatically after the Government cancelled its bid for a contract to train Saudi prison staff – a move Mr Hammond opposed on the grounds it would harm business and political ties with the Kingdom. The timing of his visit caused surprise, but within hours of arriving in Riyadh he announced that Mr Andree would be let out of jail within a week.

The 74-year-old former oil executive has been behind bars for 14 months after being caught with home-made wine in his car. He was sentenced to 350 lashes, but his family warned the punishment could kill him as he is already weak from three bouts of cancer.

Confirming the planned release as a “good outcome”, Mr Hammond said it had been achieved through the “strength, depth and breadth” of Anglo-Saudi relations.

The Foreign Secretary is holding talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and other members of the royal family and officials during his visit.

Mr Andree’s son, Simon, said: “It is great news if what the Saudis and the Government is saying is true. I’m absolutely thrilled. Hopefully we’ll have him home next week.”

He said the family had been told yesterday that Mr Hammond was in Saudi Arabia, but only learned of the promised release when news broke on television.

More than 230,000 people signed a petition urging David Cameron to intervene in the case and three of Mr Andree’s grandchildren appealed to the Prime Minister in a video message, in which they said he was ”really old” and “no human deserves to be treated like this”.

Last week the Saudi ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, warned of the “potentially serious repercussions” of a breakdown in relations with the UK and pointed to the cancellation of the prison contract as evidence of an “alarming change in the way Saudi Arabia is discussed in Britain”. He warned the Kingdom would not be “lectured to” and called for respect for its strict system of sharia, or Islamic law.

But Amnesty International’s UK government and political relations manager, Lucy Wake, said: “The Foreign Secretary should refuse to wear a Saudi muzzle. Mr Hammond must not be cowed.”

She said Mr Hammond should raise the cases of Ali al-Nimr, sentenced to beheading and crucifixion after taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration, and the blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

Ms Wake added: “There’s a catastrophic civilian death toll in Yemen, with even hospitals being bombed, and we fear UK weaponry is being used by reckless Saudi forces.

“Mr Hammond must inform the Saudi government that the UK is not willing to be a party to terrible war crimes in Yemen, and is suspending arms exports to Saudi Arabia while that risk remains.”

During his tour of the Gulf, Mr Hammond will also meet the leaders of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and give a speech on extremism – which he has described as “the great challenge of our time” –at a summit in Bahrain.

Shashank Joshi, senior research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, said the recent friction would not end the close government ties between the two countries.

He said he expected the UK to take action to repair relations. “I think both sides place real importance on the relationship and see the mutual benefits. Both have to take steps to appease domestic attacks but I can only really see the relationship deepening,” he said.

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