An Australian man has been sentenced to 500 lashes and one year in jail by Saudi Arabian officials after being detained for blasphemy on Nov 14.
Mansor Almaribe is a Shiite Muslim who was visiting Medina, Saudi Arabia, for the traditional Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Almaribe was praying in a group when he was detained by religious law enforcement and arrested.
Almaribe was accused of insulting companions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad according to the Australian.
It is unclear exactly what was said and who reportedly heard it.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has reported the involvement of Neil Hawkins, the Australian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia.
A DFAT spokesperson said, “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.”
Reuters reported that Almaribe was initially sentenced to two years in jail and 500 lashes, but Saudi courts later reduced it to one year.
Blasphemy is not only a sensitive issue in Muslim countries, but around the world.
In 2005, a Danish newspaper triggered global outrage when it published cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad.
Violent protests broke out in the Middle East, riots in Africa, and even some embassies and churches were burned down.
More than 200 people were killed and many more were injured due to the blasphemous cartoon depiction.
"The Australian Government has a universal policy of condemning the use of corporal punishment amounting to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," said the DFAT spokeswoman in a statement.
The spokeswoman added that the ambassador is urgently seeking leniency with the Saudi government.
Such leniency might be desperately needed for the 45-year-old father of five.
“Five hundred slashes on his back and he has back problems,” one of his sons, Mohammed Almaribe, said to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I wouldn't think he'd survive 50.”