Karl Andree is a 74-year-old British grandfather who spent the past 25 years living and working in Saudi Arabia. Andree has enjoyed his time in the country, even after his wife Verity was forced to return to Britain due to her worsening Alzheimer’s.
However not everything has been enjoyable for Andree. Over the past year he has run into some trouble in Saudi Arabia, and it could have a serious effect on British-Saudi relations.
In Jiddah on August 25, 2014, Andree was arrested by religious police after they reported finding homemade wine in his vehicle. The alcohol, which is illegal in the conservative Islamic nation, landed him a one year prison sentence. After serving his term, the 74-year-old’s punishment is still not over. His family reports that he has not been released and is facing 350 lashes in a public flogging.
“My dad broke the rules in a country that does not allow alcohol, but he’s served his time,” Andree’s daughter Kristen told tabloid reporters, “[He] is 74 and not a well man. I worry he won’t survive this ordeal.”
Andree’s family has reached out to British Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to step up and help their father. The family says they have been working with the British Embassy in Riyadh, but have had no success so far. They believe that the Saudi government will only listen to David Cameron in this matter.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister’s office stated the Mr. Cameron would be writing to the Saudi government to protest Andree’s “extremely concerning” case. A Foreign Office spokesman issued a statement, saying “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.”
Saudi officials have told BBC that Andree would not have been subject to flogging due to concerns about his age and health. According to Amnesty International researcher Sevag Kechichian, a prison doctor would have examined Andree and determine whether or not to proceed with the flogging based on Andree’s health.
Andree’s case is one of many to recently come to light when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Recently blogger Raif Badawi was flogged and there is a planned execution for activist Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, who was arrested when he was 17 for allegedly participating in anti-government protests. Saudi Arabia has defended their actions, claiming that their legal system is based around sharia, or Islamic law.
Andree’s son Simon is unhappy with the slow response by the British government, suggesting that business relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia were to blame. “He’s at the bottom of a pecking order and all the business dealings with Saudi Arabia and the U.K. are probably taking priority over it.”
The business he refers to is a $9 billion deal where Britain would sell prison expertise to Saudi Arabia. The deal was heavily criticized and recently fell through. Though happy that his father’s case is getting the recognition it deserves, Simon hopes that the cancelled deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia won’t impact his father’s case.
“I just hope that the breakdown of this deal won’t affect [my father],” he said. “It was never my intention. I hope it won’t impact upon him. This case was always about my father’s health.”