Saudi Arabia has refused to allow Australian officials to visit a Australian Shia 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 brought to court tomorrow, where sentence will be announced.
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 complex as only followers of Islamic faith may enter Medina under Saudi law.
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 for which Almaribe has been accused.
Mr Almaribe’s eldest son, Jamal, told “The Age,” his father had been arrested by religious police while reading and praying in a group.