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The son of a 74-year-old British man facing a sentence of 350 lashes in Saudi Arabia has accused the Foreign Office of allowing business interests to get in the way of helping to free his father.
Simon Andree’s father, Karl Andree, has been in prison in Saudi Arabia since August 2014 after being caught with homemade wine. His one-year sentence has been completed, but he is still behind bars awaiting corporal punishment.
His children say he is already weakened as a result of cancer, as well as having asthma, and fear that the lashes will kill him. Now Simon Andree has alleged British diplomats are not putting enough pressure on the Saudis because of concerns about damaging relations with the oil-rich country.
“My father is at the bottom of a list, he’s at the bottom of the pecking order,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I feel that the business dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UK are probably taking priority over it.
“All I can say is that the primary responsibility of the British government is to their citizens. He’s a British citizen and I ask that the government plead for his clemency, for him to be released. He’s done his time and I just fear that these lashes are unjustified for his age and for his current health condition.”
Saudi police caught Karl Andree with bottles of homemade wine in his car last year. The oil company executive, who has worked in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, has been held at Briman prison in Jeddah.
His children say he needs urgent treatment for asthma and for cancer. Breaking their silence over his case in a statement reported by the Sun on Monday, they also said his wife is dying in a home in the UK.
The Foreign Office has said it is actively seeking the release of Andree. A 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.
“Ministers and senior officials have raised Mr Andree’s case with the Saudi government and we are actively seeking his release as soon as possible.”
However, Simon Andree told Today he believed his father had gone as long as six months without a prison visit from a diplomat. “The biggest thing for us was the other day when my sister rang up the consulate in Jeddah and the person who was dealing with [the case] had left and no one knew who my father was,” he said.
“Obviously that gave us great cause for concern. Clearly he’s one of the few British prisoners, I think the only British prisoner, in the prison out there and the first person we spoke to didn’t know who he was.”
He added: “I’m not sure about the regular visits. There was a big gap, probably around six months, when my father didn’t have a visit.”
Simon Andree, 33, and his siblings Kirsten, 45, and Hugh, 46, lobbied discreetly for their father’s release for more than a month before going public.
They said in a statement reported by the Sun: “Our father has given 25 years of his working life to Saudi Arabia, and this is how he is treated. Until his arrest, he has always been happy working there and felt safe.
“He is 74 years of age, has had cancer three times and his wife is dying in a home in the UK. He now needs medical care for his cancer and asthma, and there is no doubt in our mind that 350 lashes will kill him. We implore David Cameron to personally intervene and help get our father home. The Saudi government will only listen to him.”
The family’s campaign comes at a time when Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia is under new scrutiny. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, last month used his keynote speech at the party’s annual conference to call on the prime minister to secure the release of a Saudi protester, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who has been condemned to execution.
Al-Nimr was arrested in 2012, when he was 17, for reportedly being involved in Arab spring protests in Qatif in the country’s eastern province. He is now facing beheading and crucifixion.
Last month, leaked diplomatic cables revealed that Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010