Calls to abandon Saudi prisons deal over grandfather sentenced to 350 lashes


Ministers are facing calls to abandon a Saudi prisons deal amid complaints from the family of a British grandfather sentenced to 350 lashes that business dealings are being put before his safety.

Labour has secured an urgent Commons question to press demands the £5.9 million training arrangement be scrapped in the light of several controversial cases in the Gulf state.

The Cabinet is reported to be split on whether to continue with the project, with Justice Secretary Michael Gove said to have angered Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond by seeking to pull the plug.

Karl Andree, 74, who has survived cancer, has served a year in jail after being caught with home-made wine but has been told he could face a public flogging - which his family fear could kill him.

His son Simon, 33, pleaded with the Government to help bring him home, saying the family feared he was too frail to survive the punishment.

Asked whether "political considerations" were getting in the way of efforts in his father's case, he said: "I think my father is at the bottom of the list, the bottom of the pecking order.

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

"All I can say is the primary responsibility of the British Government is to their citizens. He is a British citizen and I ask the Government to plead for clemency, for him to be released.

"He has done his time, I just feel that these lashings are unjustified for his age and for his current health condition."

Mr Andree, a grandfather of seven who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma, has lived in the Middle East for the last 25 years, having worked in the oil industry.

He was arrested in Jeddah in August last year after bottles of home-made wine were discovered by police, according to the Sun newspaper.

He 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 the newspaper.

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