RIYADH — A 74-year-old British grandfather faces punishment, including 350 public lashes, in Saudi Arabia after homemade wine was found in his car.
Saudi police discovered wine in Karl Andree’s car in August 2014, and he has since been serving a yearlong sentence for possessing alcohol — an illegal act in the Islamic country punishable by 80 lashes or more. Andree has yet to be released from prison, and his children say their father could now face public flogging upon completing his jail time, Reuters reported.
“We implore [Prime Minister] David Cameron to personally intervene and help get our father home,” the family said in a statement to the Sun. “The Saudi government will only listen to him.”
Simon Andree, Karl Andree’s son, is asking Britain to take responsibility for his father’s predicament.
“He’s at the bottom of a pecking order and all the business dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UK are probably taking priority over it,” Andree told BBC.
Western countries, such as Britain and the United States, have tiptoed around Saudi Arabia’s Islamic justice system, which sometimes calls for public stoning, flogging, executions and crucifixions.
In January, President Obama cut a trip in India short to attend the funeral for then-Saudi leader King Abdullah. The move highlighted what some see as a blatant disregard for human rights issues in the country.
“It’s time for the White House to make human rights in Saudi Arabia a top priority,” Sunjeev Bery, an Amnesty International official told The Washington Post. “For too long, the US government has put geopolitics and the energy relationship over the basic freedoms and human rights of the Saudi Arabian people.”
Obama has acknowledged such criticism but says there are also other issues to consider.
“Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” Obama said in a CNN interview.
Like the United States, Britain considers Saudi Arabia one of its closest military allies in the Middle East.
The UK withdrew from a $9 million deal this week to provide Saudi Arabia with prison training services, a break that the British government claims is unrelated to Andree’s case. And regardless of the cancellation, some Brits, including Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, were shocked the deal was considered in the first place.
Similar clashes between Saudi law and Western justice systems have occurred in the recent years, such as the sentence for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. In 2014, Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes (50 lashes every Friday) for publicly criticizing the country’s religious and political leaders.
Kirsten Andree, Karl Andree’s daughter, said her father regrets his actions and has already been punished appropriately.
“My dad broke the rules in a country that does not allow alcohol but he’s served his time,” Kirsten told the Sun this week. “Dad is 74 and not a well man.”
Andree, who has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 25 years as an oil executive, reportedly suffered ailments before his imprisonment, including asthma and cancer.
– TAAN, Christian Science Monitor
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