British foreign secretary Philip Hammond has insisted he does not expect a British grandfather to be lashed nor a protester to be executed in Saudi Arabia.
Hammond expressed his confidence in the cases of Karl Andree and Ali Mohammed al-Nimr following correspondence between officials from the UK and Saudi Arabia.
Andree, who has battled cancer and suffers from asthma, was arrested in Jeddah in August last year after being caught with home-made wine.
The grandfather of seven reportedly faces 350 lashes despite serving his time in jail for breaching the country’s strict anti-alcohol laws.
Other reports have suggested that Saudi officials never intended for the 74-year-old to be flogged, due to his age and health, although his family questioned the delay in his release from prison.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been among those raising concerns over the planned beheading and crucifixion of al-Nimr, who was convicted for a crime he allegedly committed aged 17.
Al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 for reportedly being involved in Arab Spring protests in Qatif, in the country’s Eastern Province.
A group of UN human rights experts have urged the Saudi Arabian government to stop al-Nimr’s execution, noting that reports suggest he was tortured and subject to ill treatment which forced him to confess.
Speaking in the Commons, Labour’s Andy Slaughter asked Hammond to update MPs about the cases of Andree and al-Nimr.
Hammond replied: “As I’ve said on many occasions previously when I’ve been asked to comment on these judicial matters in Saudi Arabia in the House, our judgment is we achieve most by speaking privately but regularly to our Saudi interlocutors.
“Let me say to you that I do not expect Mr Andree to receive the lashings that he has been sentenced to and I do not expect Mr al-Nimr to be executed.”
Kate Higham, a caseworker on Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “This is an encouraging sign but Ali’s family will not be able to breathe easy until he is released.”
She called for the UK government not to “let their Saudi allies off the hook” until the “monstrous injustice” has been overturned.
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