LONDON — A British grandfather, who survived cancer three times, has been sentenced to the life-threatening torment of 360 lashes by the brutal Saudi regime after he was caught with bottles of homemade wine in his car.
His family fears that the corporal punishment may be too much for Karl Andree, who has already been weakened by a year in prison. “I don’t think my dad could endure lashes,” said his daughter, Kirsten Piroth. “He’s not a fit man. I can’t imagine any 74-year-old that could take that many lashes.”
Beatings ordered by Saudi Arabia’s hardline judicial system, in accordance with the extreme Wahhabi strain of Islam, are usually administered with a 3-foot bamboo cane.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report that the victims of these lashings, some of which are held in public, can suffer serious injuries.
British Prime Minister David Cameron intervened directly in the case Tuesday after 14 months of prevarication in London. The Andree family felt the British government had been reluctant to get involved because of the business relationship with Saudi Arabia, one of its most important allies in the region.
“I think my father is at the bottom of the list. It’s very unfair,” Andree’s son, Simon, told the Press Association. “I feel that all the business dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UK are probably taking priority over it.”
In the past five years, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade estimates that Britain has sold almost $6 billion worth of arms to the country despite its human rights record and links to extreme groups.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, used his first major speech to attack the government’s Saudi deal-making. On Tuesday, the Conservative government scrapped a $9 million contract with the Saudi prisons system and called for Andree to be spared.
“David Cameron has been shamed into a U-turn,” said Corbyn.
The Andree family sounded relieved. “I’m pleased,” said Simon Andree.
“It has taken an awful long time. I just hope that the breakdown of this [prisons] deal won’t affect him.”
His dad remains in the notorious Briman Prison, which is known as a site for torture and inhumane conditions. The family said they had been forced to wait as long as six months between visits.
Andree has lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the last 25 years, staying in the Middle East once he had retired as an oil industry executive. He was well aware of the country’s zealous legal attitude to alcohol. Britain’s Foreign Office website warns that punishments for possessing alcohol are “severe” and explains that the British Consul cannot “save UK nationals from the consequences of their own actions” if they are caught breaking the law.
Andree’s family says that he accepts he was in the wrong, and should not have manufactured and bottled his own wine.
“My dad broke the rules in a country that does not allow alcohol but he has now served his time. He was sentenced to 12 months, 14 months ago,” said Piroth. “My 6-year-old daughter worries about him every day and asks me all the time if ‘Grandpops’ is out of jail yet.”
Gavin Sherrard-Smith, another British ex-pat caught with alcohol, described the agony of receiving 50 lashes to the Daily Mail.
“With each blow, the skin softened and the pain grew and grew to the point that my whole back felt like it was on fire. Soon it was unbearable, but they kept coming,” he said. “I didn’t realise the human body could generate and tolerate such pain.”
He staggered out of the chamber where the lashes had been administered in front of a religious judge. “The first person I saw was the prison governor. He said: ‘You are still alive then?’”