As a Muslim country with a strict interpretation of the Koran, Saudi Arabia prohibits the production, import, and consumption of alcohol. While many Saudis and members of the large expat communities in Riyadh and Jeddah attempt to get around these laws by fermenting their own homebrew concoctions (and paying off police if caught), the official penalties for possession of alcohol are severe.
So severe in fact, that they even apply to frail octogenarians—something the family of a 74-year-old British man are fighting to overturn.
Former oil executive and grandfather-of-seven Karl Andee was jailed for 12 months in August after being caught with homebrewed wine in his car by police in Jeddah. His prison sentence has now come to an end and while his family believed that he would not be subject to the lashings due to his age, this is now being questioned.
Speaking to the BBC, Andee's son Simon Andee explained: "There were two sentences. The custodial sentence which finished in August and then there's the lashing sentence which I assume he's been kept in there because that hasn't been dealt with yet. We have no idea what's going to happen in respect of that."
Simon Andee also said that his father regrets his actions but feels that he has served his sentence sufficiently in prison. The Andee family fear that Karl will not survive the flogging punishment.
In a statement reported by The Sun, they added that Andee had had cancer "three times" and hopes to see his elderly wife, who lives in a care home in the UK. "He now needs medical care for his cancer and asthma, and there is no doubt in our mind that 350 lashes will kill him," they said.
The British Foreign Office released statement saying that regular checks are being made on Andee's welfare and that "ministers and senior officials have raised Mr. Andree's case with the Saudi government and we are actively seeking his release as soon as possible."
While Western countries warn those travelling to Saudi Arabia of its strict alcohol laws, Andee isn't the first expat to face punishment for possession of booze. In April, an Australian businessman was jailed and flogged for carrying homebrewed beer, something that Amnesty International said was difficult to stop due to Saudi Arabian authorities continuing to "deny access" to the country.
It's a high price to pay for a glass of homebrew.