Family expect Karl Andree 'home next week' after pensioner spared Saudi lashes


The family of a British grandfather who was threatened with flogging for breaking Saudi Arabia's strict anti-alcohol laws have said they are "absolutely thrilled" that he is set to be released.

Karl Andree, 74, has been locked up since his arrest in Jeddah in August last year when he was caught with home-made wine.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that the grandfather-of-seven would be released within a week and reunited with his family during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

The Andree case and the cancellation of a British bid for a £5.9 million prisons deal, have strained relations between the UK and the Gulf state.

But Mr Hammond said it was because of the "strength, depth and breadth" of the ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia that they were able to "achieve effective results" on the release of the Briton.

Following the announcement, Mr Andree's son, Simon Andree, 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."

Mr Andree said he watched Mr Hammond's statement on television and he had not been told of his father's release beforehand.

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

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

Some reports suggested Saudi officials never intended for Mr Andree to be flogged, due to his age and health, but his family questioned the delay in his release from prison.

Mr Andree's family urged his release on compassionate grounds because his wife Verity is dying of Alzheimer's and is in Britain receiving care.

He has lived in the Middle East for the last 25 years, having worked in the oil industry.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: "Good to hear news from #Saudi that #KarlAndree is to be released within the week."

More than 230,000 people signed an online petition calling for the Prime Minister to intervene to stop Mr Andree - who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma - from facing the lashings.

Three of his grandchildren, Lucy, 12, Celia, 10 and Edward, nine, also appealed to Mr Cameron in a video message, in which they said their grandfather was a "really old man" and "no human deserves to be treated like this".

Mr Hammond's visit, which senior Government officials stressed had been in the diary "for quite some time", comes just days after Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK warned of "potentially serious repercussions" of a breakdown in relations with Britain and a lack of "mutual respect".

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz singled out the cancellation of the deal to train prison staff in the Gulf state as he railed against an "alarming change in the way Saudi Arabia is discussed in Britain".

Mr Hammond said his four-nation tour of the Gulf would allow him to talk to "key partners" about "security issues".

As part of the tour, Mr Hammond will meet the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to discuss regional security and the crisis in Syria, ahead of international talks in Vienna on Friday.

At the weekend, he will give a speech on extremism - which he described as "the great challenge of our time" - at a summit in Bahrain hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Foreign Office said he will make clear that the UK's national security is heavily linked to that of the region, highlighting continued commitment to a military presence in the Gulf.