Australian sentenced to 500 lashes
Sydney - An Australian man has been sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in jail by a Saudi Arabian court after being found guilty of blasphemy, Canberra said on Wednesday.
Reports said Mansor Almaribe, 45, was detained in the city of Medina on November 14 while making the hajj pilgrimage and accused of insulting companions of the prophet Muhammed.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said he was sentenced on Tuesday and Canberra's ambassador in Saudi Arabia had been in touch with authorities to plead for leniency.
"The Australian ambassador has been in touch with Saudi authorities after a 45-year-old Australian man was sentenced by a court in Saudi Arabia to one year in jail and 500 lashes," a DFAT spokesperson said.
A consular official attended the sentencing, where Almaribe was initially slapped with a two-year jail term which was subsequently reduced, the spokesperson added.
The Melbourne Age has previously said the father-of-five, who could not afford a lawyer, has diabetes and heart disease, with grave fears for his health.
His eldest son, Jamal, told the newspaper this week that his father had been reading and praying in a group when accosted by religious police and arrested.