The family of an Australian man sentenced to a year in jail and 500 lashes in Saudi Arabia says he will not survive the punishment.
Mansor Almaribe, a 45-year-old father of five from Shepparton in northern Victoria, was found guilty of blasphemy by a Saudi Arabian court yesterday.
Almaribe had travelled to the country for a pilgrimage to Mecca and was arrested nearly a month ago.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says the judge initially handed down a sentence of two years in jail and 500 lashes, but then cut the jail time.
One of the man's sons, Mohammed, says his father has serious health problems.
"Five hundred slashes on his back, and he has back problems. I wouldn't think he'd survive 50," he said.
Almaribe's local federal MP, Sharman Stone, has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to intervene.
She says Almaribe did not have legal representation because he could not afford it, and will not lodge an appeal in case his sentence is extended.
"[I call on] Mr Rudd to be personally involved and make sure that all that is possibly able to be done to reduce this sentence [is done], even perhaps to remove the sentence all together if that can be achieved," she said.
DFAT says the Australian ambassador has been in touch with Saudi authorities and the department is providing consular assistance to Almaribe's family in Australia.
DFAT says the ambassador will urgently pursue avenues for leniency with the relevant authorities.
The director of the Australian National University's centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Amin Saikal, says the sentence of 500 lashes seems harsh.
"I think it really depends on the nature of what he's been convicted for. But 500 lashes certainly seems excessive. The Saudi authorities and particular the legal authorities would have to really justify that."
Topics: law-crime-and-justice, islam, religion-and-beliefs, community-and-society, saudi-arabia, shepparton-3630,wodonga-3690, vic, australia