Don’t get me wrong, being lashed is no punishment that any human being should perform on another human being. It is barbaric and wrong. As is the removal of a hand for theft, and the beheading of drug dealers. I am not for one minute suggesting that Karl Andree deserves the punishment that his family are desperately trying to over-turn. Nobody could wish that on somebody.
But there is a but. I lived in Saudi Arabia for six years. I didn’t agree with their human rights record or the way they treated women but I kept my mouth shut and got on with it. In return I was paid a hefty tax free salary and given accommodation I could only dream of owning in the UK. The one thing I knew though was that rules were rules, laws were laws. I was not permitted to travel in a car with any man I could legally marry, so my father, brother or son would be fine, but father in law or the bloke in accounts who was just giving me a lift home from work? Forget it. We knew the rules, and so when we were stopped periodically we knew we weren’t going to be thrown in jail.
And thrown in jail you were. Even for running a red light.
We knew we couldn’t leave town without permission. We knew we couldn’t eat in public during Ramdam. I knew I couldn’t drive. We knew we couldn’t import pork. We knew we couldn’t drink alcohol.
We also made sure we didn’t make home brew. More for reasons related to my surname being Brewin at the time. You can see the Daily Mail headline now when we got caught, can’t you? And also my parents had a vineyard in France so there was no way I was going to carry on the family business by mixing yeast, sugar and grape juice in the bath. Whilst I joke about these reasons the underlying truth is that we knew the punishment for making or transporting home brew at best would be deportation and the loss of our tax free income. At worst it would be what Karl is now facing.
He has been living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years. He knows the score. He knows it is banned and so I am baffled as to why he would have done this when he knows the punishment. I remember vividly the case of two nurses convicted of murdering a fellow nurse Yvonne Gilford, in Dhahran in 1996 as I was in Riyadh at the time. The pleas for the government to intervene and how the embassy staff were trying desperately to negotiate but also being wary of this being a crime that had been committed on Saudi soil and that they couldn’t really get involved in such matters.
This morning we see the same again. The family of Karl Andree pleading with David Cameron to do something. Granted Karl has spent 14 months in prison when he was only sentenced to 12 months but the lashes were the other part of the punishment and this is the bit his family are convinced will kill him. A belief that sadly I think is true, lashes are brutal. And 350 of them when one of the nurses convicted of being an accessory to murder only got 150 more for being involved in killing someone? These convictions were later overturned when the King got involved. I remember at the time though thinking “hasn’t the King got better things to do?”.
I don’t mean that flippantly. It is likely those girls didnt’ commit that crime but were coerced into the confession and if it had been one of my kids then I would have been banging on the palace gates myself but that is murder, this is about booze and from the reports I have read he IS guilty.
Were the shoe on the other foot and a Saudi be over here and break the law for something that is legal in their country would be allow David Cameron to over turn the conviction? Would there be uproar? Something say like driving without insurance. That is not a crime in Saudi Arabia, yet it is an offence here. Would we allow our government to be bullied into “letting off” a Saudi convicted of this when an honest mistake means a driver can be on the road without insurance in this country and he gets fined and six points on his licence? Or to have a murder conviction quashed because “blood money” had been paid to the victim’s family? Can you imagine the uproar if a murderer were allowed to walk free in this country in exchange for that? If the family of that murderer were begging their King to pass on a cheque to the family via David Cameron?
This case is awful. I can’t imagine how the family are all feeling, but at the same time I can’t help feeling that when you are in a foreign country you have to accept that along with your tax free salary you have to accept their laws.
And ultimately their punishments.
Photo of wine courtesy of Shutterstock