THE UK government has withdrawn its bid for a controversial justice deal with Saudi Arabia as Prime Minister David Cameron raised concerns about the threatened flogging of a 74-year-old British grandfather.
Ministers had been under intense pressure to scrap the proposal for a £5.9 million deal to provide “training needs analysis” for Saudi prison service staff in light of several controversial cases in the Gulf state.
Downing Street announced that the government had withdrawn its bid and, in a separate development, said the PM was personally intervening in the “extremely concerning” case of Karl Andree, from South London, who has been told he could face a public flogging of 360 lashes which his family fear could kill him.
Mr Andree has served a year in jail after being caught with illegal homemade wine.
A grandfather of seven, who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma, Mr Andree has lived in the Middle East for the last 25 years, having worked in the oil industry.
His son, Simon Andree, welcomed David Cameron’s intervention: “I am pleased. It has taken an awful long time.”
The family has urged Mr Andree be released on compassionate grounds because his wife Verity is dying of Alzheimer’s and is in Britain receiving care.
Withdrawal of the prison contract bid follows reports of a Cabinet rift on the issue, with Justice Secretary Michael Gove said to have angered Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond by seeking to pull the plug.
Mr Gove was reported to have secured the support of Business Secretary Sajid Javid for abandoning the deal - but was overruled by Downing Street. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who used his autumn conference speech to call for the bid to be scrapped, claimed the government had been “shamed” into the move.
He said: “David Cameron has been shamed into a U-turn on this terrible contract, but why on earth was it set up in the first place? We should be sending a strong message to repressive regimes.”