143,000 sign petition demanding Saudi release of British grandfather

Karl Andree © Facebook
Nearly 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding the release of British grandfather Karl Andree, held in Saudi Araba after police caught him with bottles of wine in his car.

Andree, 74, who survived cancer three times and suffers from asthma, was arrested in Jeddah last August for breaking the country’s strict anti-alcohol laws.

He has been in prison since and was thought to be awaiting 350 lashes, a severe punishment which is family believe will “no doubt kill him.

A petition launched by Andree’s son, Simon, calling for Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene and stop the grandfather-of-seven from receiving the corporal punishment has attracted 143,117 supporters.

He is 74 and not a well man. I worry he won’t survive this ordeal. There is no doubt in my mind that 350 lashes will kill him,” the petition’s preamble said.

Please help us put pressure on David Cameron and the UK Government to use their diplomatic weight to stop the Saudi Arabian Government going through with this punishment,” it added.

‘Extremely concerning’ 

On Tuesday, Cameron vowed to intervene personally and called the case “extremely concerning.”

He pledged to write to the Saudi Arabian government in an attempt to secure Andree’s release.

Soon after, the government announced it had pulled the plug on the controversial deal to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia.

The withdrawal follows reports of a Cabinet rift on the issue. Justice Secretary Michael Gove is said to have angered Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond by pulling the plug.

‘Cameron shamed into a U-turn’ 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the prison contract during his speech to Labour Party Conference delegates in September and said Britain has to be “very clear” about what it stands for in human rights.

Citing the case of Mohammed al-Nimr, 17, who faces the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for taking part in an anti-government protest, Corbyn said: “A refusal to stand up is the kind of thing that really damages Britain’s standing in the world.”

Commenting on Cameron’s decision to scrap the contract on Tuesday, Corbyn said the PM has been “shamed into a U-turn.”

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,” the Labour leader said in a statement.

It is almost certain that Corbyn will raise the issue at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, considering the controversy surrounding Andree’s case.

‘Victory for human rights crusaders’ 

Speaking to RT, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said scrapping of the contract is a “victory” for human rights crusaders. They also called for the UK arms sales to the Gulf regime to end.

The decision to end the prison contract is a victory for campaign groups and activists,” Andrew Smith from CAAT said.

Andree’s son said his father deserves to be reunited with his wife, Verily, as they approach their 50th anniversary this year.

She is dying of Alzheimer’s disease and is in Britain receiving care.

He should be with his wife of 50 years when she dies. If he is still in prison when she passes away, that will finish him off,” he said.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “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.”