“Hundreds of Authors around the world have joined human rights groups in urging Saudi Arabia to release ashraf fayadh a poet who faces the death sentence on charges of ‘apostasy’ for his poetry.
Outrage over Saudi death sentence for poet on blasphemy charges,” by Schams Elwazer, CNN, November 29, 2015:
(CNN) — Hundreds of Authors around the world have joined human rights groups in urging Saudi Arabia to release a poet who faces the death sentence on charges of “apostasy” for his poetry.
Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh, 35, was sentenced to death by a court in the southwestern Saudi city of Abha earlier this month on a series of blasphemy charges, according to Human Rights Watch, which viewed the trial documents.
The charges included insulting the “Divine Self” and the Prophet Mohammed, mocking the Quran and spreading atheism.
Fayadh had originally been handed a lesser sentence of four years in prison and 800 lashes on the charge of having inappropriate relations with members of the opposite sex.
The court had dismissed a prosecution request for a death sentence on the apostasy charge, citing Fayadh’s declared “repentance” and testimony that indicated hostility between Fayadh and the complainant, HRW said.
But the prosecutor appealed the ruling, according to HRW. In mid-November a new judge dismissed the earlier decision, saying Fayadh’s repentance was not enough to avoid a death sentence for apostasy, citing verses from the defendant’s poetry.
Fayadh was initially arrested in 2013 after a personal disagreement with a man at a coffee shop in the town of Abha in relation to his poetry, according to HRW and Authors’ association PEN International.
The man reportedly complained to the ultraconservative kingdom’s religious police, accusing Fayadh of insulting Islam in his book of poems and insulting the Saudi state.At least 151 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year – the highest recorded figure since 1995 – in an unprecedented wave of executions marking a grim new milestone in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International.So far in 2015, on average one person has been executed every other day.According to Amnesty’s records, the last time Saudi Arabia executed more than 150 people in a single year was in 1995, when 192 executions were recorded. Annual execution tolls for Saudi Arabia in recent years have rarely exceeded 90 in a year. In 2014 there were exactly 90 executions, meaning that so far in 2015 there has been a 68% increase in executions compared to the whole of last year.