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Family of Briton facing lashes in Saudi Arabia hails David Cameron intervention

Published 13/10/2015

Karl Andree was arrested in Saudi Arabia in August last year
Karl Andree was arrested in Saudi Arabia in August last year

The daughter of a 74-year-old British grandfather facing 350 lashes in Saudi Arabia has lauded David Cameron's decision to appeal to officials to stop the flogging.

Karl Andree, who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma, was arrested in Jeddah in August last year after bottles of home-made wine were discovered in his car by police.

The Government has also withdrawn its bid for a controversial justice deal with Saudi Arabia as Mr Cameron raised concerns about the threatened lashing.

Mr Andree's daughter, Kirsten Piroth, said she was not even sure her father knew about the Prime Minister's intervention yet.

Ms Piroth told the Press Association: "I don't even know if he knows yet. It is great news. The only reason for doing this was because we were hoping the Government would get involved. W e just wanted something to happen and if it takes the Prime Minister to write a letter then that's great."

Ms Piroth said she did not want to point fingers but had been left feeling "pretty helpless" by the Foreign Office.

She said: "We got lots of nice emails and we started to feel like it was going nowhere. Our dad was in prison, he's been pretty ill. I'm really surprised that he's lasted so long. I wish I could speak with him because it was a big decision for us to do this and we hoped it would work."

Mr Andree's son Sim on Andree said: "I'm pleased. It has taken an awful long time. I just hope that the breakdown of this deal won't affect him."

Ministers had been under intense pressure to scrap the proposal for a £5.9 million training programme in the light of several controversial cases in the state.

Downing Street announced that the Government had withdrawn its bid and, in a separate development, said the Prime Minister was personally intervening in the "extremely concerning" case of Karl Andree, who has been told he could face a public flogging - which his family fear could kill him.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman told reporters: "This bid to provide additional training to Saudi Arabia has been reviewed, and the Government has decided it won't be proceeding with the bid."

She added that the decision was based on an examination of the "priorities" for the Ministry of Justice and a decision to "focus on some of the domestic priorities we want to do in terms of reforms here".

"Having looked at it further again, we have established that we can withdraw at this stage, there will be no financial penalty and consequently that decision has been taken."

Number 10 said that the intervention in the case of Mr Andree was a separate issue, based on concerns in his particular case.

The spokeswoman said: "This is an extremely concerning case. We have been providing consular assistance to Mr Andree and to his family since he was first arrested and we have raised the case repeatedly in recent weeks.

"Given the ongoing concerns and the fact we would like to see more progress, the PM is writing today to the Saudis to further raise the case on the back of the action that has already been taken by the Foreign Office."

In the letter, to a "senior" figure in the Saudi government, "the Prime Minister will outline some of the concerns that we have around this case and this individual".

Mr Andree, a grandfather-of-seven, has lived in the Middle East for the last 25 years, having worked in the oil industry.

He was described as an "all-round lovely person" and a "very good man" by his family.

Mr Andree was sentenced to 12 months in prison and flogging for breaching the country's strict anti-alcohol laws. He has served his time in jail but is still locked up as Saudi officials wait to carry out the lashings, according to his son.

The family are also urging that Mr Andree be released on compassionate grounds because his wife Verity is dying of Alzheimer's and is in Britain receiving care.

Asked whether "political considerations" were getting in the way of efforts in his father's case, Simon Andree told the Press Association: "I think my father is at the bottom of the list. It's very unfair.

"I feel that all the business dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UK are probably taking priority over it.

"I'm asking David Cameron to look at his case, look at his health and help us bring him home.

"He's a British citizen - we have British citizens locked up around the world and it is the responsibility of the British Government to help him."

The withdrawal of the prison contract bid follows reports of a Cabinet rift on the issue, with Justice Secretary Michael Gove said to have angered Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond by seeking to pull the plug.

Mr Gove was reported by The Times to have secured the support of Business Secretary Sajid Javid for abandoning the proposed deal to sell expertise to the Saudi penal system - but was overruled by Downing Street.

The Justice Secretary has closed down the controversial departmental commercial body which sold prison expertise to other countries, some with poor human rights records.

Just Solutions international (JSi) was established under his predecessor Chris Grayling in 2013.

However, although JSi was disbanded, the bid for the Saudi work remained on the table.

Pressed on whether human rights concerns were a factor in the decision today to withdraw the bid, the Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Government has made a decision on how it prioritises the work of the Ministry of Justice and what we want to do.

"Alongside that we will continue to engage and work with the Saudis on human rights issues, on judicial reform and continue to raise concerns where we have them."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who used his autumn conference speech to call for the bid to be scrapped, claimed the Government had been "shamed" into the move.

He said: "David Cameron has been shamed into a U-turn on this terrible contract, but why on earth was it set up in the first place?

"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, and would damage Britain's standing in the world."

Asked whether Britain had received any assurances from Saudi Arabia that Mr Andree would not be flogged, Mr Cameron's official spokeswoman said: "I'm not going to get into the details of discussions we have had and continue to have with the Saudis on this case, apart from the fact that we remain concerned about this individual's case. That's why the PM is writing today.

"Clearly, we have ongoing concerns about this case and this individual and that is why we want to make sure that, working with the Saudis, we make some progress on it."

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