Melbourne: An ailing Australian man, who was on a Haj pilgrimage, has been sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in jail in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty of blasphemy, Australian officials have said.
   
The 45-year-old man identified as a resident of Victoria was detained in the holy city of Medina on November 14 for insulting the companions of Prophet Mohammad, a violation of Saudi Arabia's strict blasphemy laws.
   
His family members have said the man was suffering from diabetes and heart disease and may not be able to withstand 500 lashed as they asked the Australian government to intervene.
   
Mansor Almaribe from Shepparton was initially sentenced to two years in jail, a sentence which was reduced by the court later.
   
The paper said the Australian ambassador had been in touch with Saudi authorities and was providing consular assistance to the man.
   
"The Ambassador will urgently pursue avenues for leniency with relevant authorities," a spokeswoman said.

Agencies