Family of Briton facing lashes in Saudi Arabia hails David Cameron intervention


The daughter of a 74-year-old British grandfather facing 350 lashes in Saudi Arabia has lauded David Cameron's decision to appeal to officials to stop the flogging.

Karl Andree, who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma, was arrested in Jeddah in August last year after bottles of home-made wine were discovered in his car by police.

The Government has also withdrawn its bid for a controversial justice deal with Saudi Arabia as Mr Cameron raised concerns about the threatened lashing.

Mr Andree's daughter, Kirsten Piroth, told the Press Association: "I don't even know if he knows yet. It is great news. The only reason for doing this was because we were hoping the Government would get involved. We just wanted something to happen and if it takes the Prime Minister to write a letter then that's great."

Ms Piroth said she did not want to point fingers but had been left feeling "pretty helpless" by the Foreign Office.

She said: "We got lots of nice emails and we started to feel like it was going nowhere. Our dad was in prison, he's been pretty ill. I'm really surprised that he's lasted so long."

Mr Andree's son Simon Andree said: "I'm pleased. It has taken an awful long time. I just hope that the breakdown of this deal won't affect him."

Ministers had been under intense pressure to scrap the proposal for a £5.9 million training programme in the light of several controversial cases in the state.

Downing Street announced that the Government had withdrawn its bid and, in a separate development, said the Prime Minister was personally intervening in the "extremely concerning" case of Karl Andree, who has been told he could face a public flogging - which his family fear could kill him.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman told reporters: "This bid to provide additional training to Saudi Arabia has been reviewed, and the Government has decided it won't be proceeding with the bid."

She added that the decision was based on an examination of the "priorities" for the Ministry of Justice and a decision to "focus on some of the domestic priorities we want to do in terms of reforms here".

Number 10 said that the intervention in the case of Mr Andree was a separate issue, based on concerns in his particular case.

The grandfather-of-seven has lived in the Middle East for the last 25 years, having worked in the oil industry.

He was described as an "all-round lovely person" and a "very good man" by his family.

Mr Andree 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 his son.

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

The withdrawal of the prison contract bid follows reports of a Cabinet rift on the issue, with Justice Secretary Michael Gove said to have angered Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond by seeking to pull the plug.

Mr Gove was reported by The Times to have secured the support of Business Secretary Sajid Javid for abandoning the proposed deal to sell expertise to the Saudi penal system - but was overruled by Downing Street.

The Justice Secretary has closed down the controversial departmental commercial body which sold prison expertise to other countries, some with poor human rights records.

Just Solutions international (JSi) was established under his predecessor Chris Grayling in 2013.

However, although JSi was disbanded, the bid for the Saudi work remained on the table.

Pressed on whether human rights concerns were a factor in the decision today to withdraw the bid, the Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Government has made a decision on how it prioritises the work of the Ministry of Justice and what we want to do.

"Alongside that we will continue to engage and work with the Saudis on human rights issues, on judicial reform and continue to raise concerns where we have them."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who used his autumn conference speech to call for the bid to be scrapped, claimed the Government had been "shamed" into the move.

He said: "David Cameron has been shamed into a U-turn on this terrible contract, but why on earth was it set up in the first place?

"We should be sending a strong message to repressive regimes that the UK is a beacon for human rights and that this contract bid is unacceptable in the 21st century, and would damage Britain's standing in the world."