Briton facing flogging in Saudi Arabia to be released
British grandfather Karl Andree, who was facing the threat of flogging in Saudi Arabia for being caught with home-made wine, is to be released from custody, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Wednesday.
"Delighted to announce Brit Karl Andree will be released from Saudi custody within a week and reunited with his family," Hammond wrote on Twitter after meeting King Salman on a visit to Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister David Cameron added on Twitter that the news was "good to hear".
The 74-year-old's family said he had been told he faced 350 lashes in public after serving a year behind bars for being caught with home-made wine.
Production and consumption of alcohol are banned in Saudi Arabia.
Cameron wrote to the Saudi government about Andree's case earlier this month and his spokeswoman had called the case "extremely concerning".
|Delighted to announce Brit Karl Andree will be released from Saudi custody within a week and reunited with his family
- Philip Hammond
Andree's son Simon said he feared the grandfather of seven would not survive a flogging.
Andree worked in Saudi Arabia's oil industry for 25 years.
'Smoothing ruffled feathers'
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday on a visit to "smooth ruffled feathers", because Saudi Arabia is an "enormously important" partner for the UK in terms of trade, intelligence and defence, the BBC's Frank Gardner said.
On Monday, Saudi Ambassador Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz lashed out at growing criticism in the UK of the absolute monarchy's human rights record.
He warned there could be serious repercussions from an "alarming change" in the UK's attitude, the BBC reported.
"To further our shared strategic interests in the years ahead as we confront a variety of threats," the ambassador wrote in Britain's Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper, "it is crucial that Saudi Arabia be treated with the respect it has unwaveringly afforded the United Kingdom."
Such open criticism of the UK from a senior Saudi official is unusual.
Saudi support for extremist Islamist factions in the Syrian civil war and across the region and a slew of human rights cases in the kingdom itself have been covered very critically by the UK press.
Other than the soon-to-be-released Andree, the alleged human rights abuses include activist Mohammad al-Nimr, sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion for attending pro-democracy protests as a 17-year-old, as well as Saudi blogger Raif al-Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam".
Badawi's wife, Ensar Badawi, said on Tuesday that the Saudi authorities had given the "green light" for his flogging to continue. Badawi, a diabetic suffering from ill-health, was severely injured in the first round of 50 lashes he endured in January.
The UK cancelled a £5.9 million ($9 million) deal with the kingdom to provide a training needs analysis for the Saudi penal system in early October.
The cancellation followed the Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn raising the deal, the UK's close relationship to the Saudi regime and the kingdom's human rights record in his inaugural party conference as leader of the formal opposition.
Saudi Arabia is said to be Britain's most important trade partner in the Middle East and was its biggest market for arms exports last year.
Hammond is strongly in favour of close relations with Saudi Arabia, and accused his cabinet colleague, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, of naivety for calling for the deal to be scrapped.
Hammond heads to Bahrain for the 11th Manama Dialogue on Friday, a major international security conference which, this year, will focus on Iran, Yemen and the Islamic State group (IS).
The dialogue, which this year runs from 30 November to 1 October, brings together national security leaders from the Middle East, North America, Europe and Asia - along with business leaders, analysts and the media.