Briton Karl Andree jailed in Saudi Arabia back home

media captionKarl Andree was seen greeting his son and daughter after touching down in the UK - footage courtesy of The Sun newspaper

A British pensioner who was jailed for possessing alcohol in Saudi Arabia has returned to the UK.

Karl Andree, 74, had been in prison for more than a year after he was arrested by Saudi religious police for possessing homemade wine.

He told The Sun he was "emotional" to be back and was looking forward to rebuilding his life.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the release showed the "strength and breadth" of Anglo-Saudi relations.

Mr Andree, who had been living in the country for 25 years, was transporting wine in his car in August 2014 when he was pulled over and arrested in the city Jeddah. Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

He was given a one-year prison sentence, but his family was concerned he would also receive 360 lashes for his crime.

Saudi and UK officials later told the BBC "there was never any question" of Mr Andree being flogged.

'Truly humbled'

Mr Andree's children launched an online petition - signed by more than 230,000 people - calling for the prime minister to intervene in Mr Andree's case.

They warned the grandfather of seven - who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma - would not survive lashings.

Prime Minister David Cameron previously described the case as "extremely concerning" and also raised the situation with Saudi Arabian officials.

Mr Andree was eventually released on 28 October.


image copyrightPA

By Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

The Foreign Office stressed today that they received assurances from Saudi Arabia in early September that no lashings would take place.

It said these assurances were passed on directly to Karl Andree's two sons but that the family still decided to go to the Sun with their fears he could still be lashed.

The "lashing" headline certainly got the prime minister's attention.

The Saudis have themselves to blame for this bad publicity.

Mr Andree was caught with alcohol in August 2014 and sentenced to 12 months in jail.

That sentence expired in August this year but due to Saudi bureaucratic incompetence and distraction over the massive Hajj disasters, the authorities there failed to get his release papers to the prison.

The Foreign Office said it was working quietly behind the scenes to get him released but he was still in a Jeddah jail over two months after his sentence expired.

The media coverage, led by the Sun, forced Mr Cameron to intervene. Last month the foreign secretary met the Saudi leadership and, hours later, Mr Andree was released from prison.

Speaking to the Sun, he said: "I am truly humbled and will never forget the love and support of so many people in getting me home.

"I am looking forward to being reunited with family and friends and rebuilding my life."

Mr Hammond, who took a diplomatic trip to the country last month, said: "I'm grateful to the Saudi Arabian government for their efforts in ensuring this positive outcome, following our discussions during my visit.

"It's through the strength and breadth of the relationship between our nations that we have been able to overcome a difficult issue like this."

Maya Foa, of human rights organisation Reprieve, described Mr Andree's release as a "relief" but insisted the UK government should do more to combat "terrible abuses" in Saudi.

She said executions have doubled in Saudi Arabia since last year, and the authorities were still planning to execute young people for attending protests.

"As a close ally, the UK must press the Saudis to change course before more lives are lost," she added.

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