Karl Andree case: David Cameron to write to Saudi government

  • Published
Karl AndreeImage source, Kirsten Piroth

Prime Minister David Cameron will write to the Saudi Arabian government about a UK pensioner imprisoned for possessing alcohol, Downing Street has said.

It follows concern from the children of Karl Andree that the 74-year-old will receive 360 lashes for the crime.

But BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said Saudi and UK officials had assured him "there was never any question" of Mr Andree being flogged.

Delays in Saudi bureaucracy meant his release papers were held up, he said.

Our correspondent said Saudi officials had given private assurances to the UK Foreign Office.

Mr Andree has already spent more than a year in prison since being arrested by Saudi religious police.

His daughter, Kirsten Piroth, told BBC News her father - who has suffered from three types of cancer - "would not survive" the punishment lashes.

Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia and Mrs Piroth said her father was transporting homemade wine in his car in August 2014 when he was pulled over and arrested.

The prime minister's official spokeswoman said this was a "extremely concerning" case, and the government had already raised the matter with the Saudi government "several times".

But she denied there was any connection between Mr Andree's case and the government's cancellation of a £5.9m prisons deal with Saudi Arabia.

Media caption,

Kirsten Piroth: "I cannot believe that they would administer that to an old man because he wouldn't survive it"

'Not very well'

Mr Andree's one-year prison sentence is now complete and Mrs Piroth said her family had been "led to believe" the lashes would not be given due to her father's age and health.

But she said there now "seems to be some question mark" over that.

"He's an old man, he's 74, he's survived three types of cancer with very strong cancer treatments, he's asthmatic, he has gout - he's not very well," she said.

"He's got a great spirit but his bodily health is not great and I just feel like he received his sentence and he did his time and I just want him home now."

Image source, Kirsten Piroth
Image caption,
Mrs Piroth said her father had a range of health problems

She said time was "of the essence" due to her father's age, adding that he had "paid for what he did" in Saudi Arabia and should now be released.

Asked if she was happy with the help given by UK authorities, she said: "I don't really understand why it's taking so long because it's my understanding in that system that it needs... a phone call to the right person and he could be released."

Mr Andree's son Simon told the BBC his father had "enjoyed living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years and has been very happy there".

Media caption,

Simon Andree: "I appeal to the government to get clemency for him and to get him released"

He said he understood the laws and regretted what had happened.

"But he should be released," he said. "My mother has dementia and is deteriorating quite rapidly and my father really wants to come back and see her."

'Severe' punishments

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Our embassy staff are continuing to assist Mr Andree, including regular visits to check on his welfare, and frequent contact with his lawyer and family.

"Ministers and senior officials have raised Mr Andree's case with the Saudi government and we are actively seeking his release as soon as possible."

The Foreign Office website warns that penalties for possessing alcohol in Saudi Arabia are "severe".

It also warns of Saudi laws against women driving, adultery, homosexuality and drug smuggling - with the last punishable by death.

Last month Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on UK Prime Minister David Cameron to press Saudi authorities to reduce the sentence of a protester sentenced to death in the country.