Saudis bar Aussie diplomats in blasphemy case
Rasid - « Brisbane Times - By Daniel Flitton » - 2 / 12 / 2011 - 6:56 pm
Mansor Almaribe
Mansor Almaribe

Saudi Arabia has refused to allow Australian officials to visit a Shepparton man and father of five held in prison in the oil-rich kingdom for almost three weeks after being accused of blasphemy.

The family of Mansor Almaribe – detained in the city of Medina on November 14 and accused of insulting companions of the prophet Mohammed – holds grave fears for his health as he suffers from diabetes and heart disease.

Mr Almaribe has been unable to afford a lawyer and will not be provided one under Saudi law. His case is expected to be bought to court tomorrow, when sentence will be passed.

An Arabic-speaking Australian official from the embassy in Riyadh travelled 900 kilometres to the Medina jail on Wednesday (yesterday, Melbourne time) but was refused entry by the prison manager.

The Directorate of Prisons in Medina also refused to allow access to Mr Almaribe, claiming the Saudi foreign affairs ministry must approve any visit.

The Australian embassy had lodged a request for access days beforehand. Visits are complicated because, under Saudi law, only followers of Islamic faith may enter Medina.

Mr Almaribe is a Shiite Muslim, a minority branch in the predominantly Sunni country, and was making the Haj pilgrimage when he was arrested by religious police.

The Australian official was assured Mr Almaribe was in “fine” health and was given showers and had seen a prison doctor.

But the Saudi guards said they would not allow a doctor arranged by the embassy to assess Mr Almaribe.

The prison officials did, however, accept a copy of Mr Almaribe's medical records sent from Australia.

Australian officials have assured Mr Almaribe's family that they have been unable to find any past examples of people being executed for crimes of the type he is accused.

Mr Almaribe's eldest son, Jamal, told The Age this week his father had been reading and praying in a group when accosted by religious police and arrested.

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