UK

Briton Karl Andree 'to be released from Saudi prison'

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Media captionForeign Secretary Philip Hammond said Karl Andree would not receive any lashes

A British man who was imprisoned for possessing alcohol in Saudi Arabia will be released within a week, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Karl Andree, 74, was arrested by Saudi religious police after being found in possession of homemade wine.

He has been in prison for more than a year and his family feared he would also be flogged, although Saudi officials denied this would happen.

Mr Hammond tweeted of his "delight" that Mr Andree was getting released.

The full tweet said: "Delighted to announce Brit Karl Andree will be released from Saudi custody within a week & reunited with his family."

Mr Andree, who has lived in the country for several years, has been in prison since his arrest in Jeddah in August last year

Son 'thrilled'

Mr Andree's family have previously made media appeals calling for his release, and they feared he would die if he received the 360 lashes to which he had been sentenced.

Simon Andree said he was "absolutely thrilled" at the news his father, who is a grandfather of seven, would be released.

"The Foreign Office called me this morning and told me Philip Hammond was in Saudi but they didn't tell me anything else," he said.

"I've been watching the TV all day waiting for the news."

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Media captionKirsten Piroth: "Pure relief" at father's release

His daughter Kirsten Piroth said the news was a "huge relief", and that it had been a "long, long year" of worry.

Mr Hammond said: "This is a good outcome and I'm grateful to minister Al-Jubeir and all other people who have been involved, especially His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, for ensuring that we now have a good outcome."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has previously raised the case with officials in Saudi Arabia, said: "We have always acted on human rights and on British prisoners overseas, with all countries, not just Saudi Arabia, we raise these concerns.

"We try to do it diplomatically and carefully and in the end it's about getting a good result for a British citizen and I'm pleased that on this occasion this person has been released."

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Image caption Mr Hammond and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz will discuss the conflict in Syria

Mr Hammond is currently visiting Saudi Arabia, at a time of heightened scrutiny of the UK's relationship with the country.

Saudi Arabia, where alcohol is illegal, has long been accused of human rights abuses, and has come under pressure from the UK over its treatment of both expats and Saudi nationals who have fallen foul of the country's Islamic laws.

The UK recently cancelled a £5.9m deal to provide "training needs analysis" for Saudi prison service staff.

The Saudi ambassador to the UK - Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz - has previously warned of serious repercussions over what he described as an "alarming change" in the UK's attitude towards Saudi Arabia.

He said Saudi Arabia would "not be lectured to by anyone".

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said Mr Hammond's visit was intended to "smooth ruffled feathers" because Saudi Arabia is an "enormously important" partner for the UK in terms of trade, intelligence and defence.

But the country was also a controversial partner, he said, not least because its "human rights record is pretty awful".

Controversial cases which have attracted media attention recently include that of Saudi national Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, whose case was raised with Mr Cameron by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr al-Nimr was arrested when he was 17 in 2011 for taking part in an anti-government protest and now faces the death penalty.

A Foreign Office statement said Mr Hammond was in the region to meet with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the crisis in Syria.

"During the Gulf visit, the foreign secretary will also discuss the ongoing conflict in Yemen," the statement added.

"As usual on all visits, he will raise consular cases, including current Saudi judicial cases."

On Friday he will fly to Vienna for further talks about Syria with a host of other countries including the US, Iran, Germany and Jordan before heading to Bahrain at the weekend to give speech about extremism.

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