Saudi Arabia sentences Palestinian poet to death after appeal against 800 lashes

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A Palestinian poet has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for renouncing Islam. Ashraf Fayadh, who  said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling. Fayadh, aged 35, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried last month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

“I was really shocked but it was expected, though I didn’t do anything that deserves death,” Fayadh told the Guardian.

Mona Kareem, a migrant rights activist from Kuwait who has led a campaign for the poet’s release, said: “For one and a half years they promised him an appeal and kept intimidating him that there’s new evidence. He was unable to assign a lawyer because his ID was confiscated when he was arrested [in January 2014]. Then they said you must have a retrial and we’ll change the prosecutor and the judges. The new judge didn’t even talk to him, he just made the verdict.”

Freedom of expression campaigners English PEN, PEN American Center and PEN International condemned the Saudi Arabian authorities’ decision,and called for his immediate release.

Fayadh’s supporters believe he is being punished for posting a video online showing the religious police (mutaween) lashing a man in public. “Some Saudis think this was revenge by the morality police,” said Kareem. The religious police first detained Fayadh in August 2013 after receiving a complaint that he was cursing against Allah and the prophet Muhammad, insulting Saudi Arabia and distributing a book of his poems that promoted atheism. Fayadh said the complaint arose from a personal dispute with another artist during a discussion about contemporary art in a cafe.

He was released on bail but the police arrested him again in January 2014. Acording to Fayadh’s friends, when the police failed to prove that his poetry was atheist propaganda, they began berating him for smoking and having long hair. “They accused me [of] atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society,” said Fayadh. He added that the book, Instructions Within, published in 2008, was “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.”

The case went to trial in February 2014 when the complainant and two members of the religious police told the court that Fayadh had publicly blasphemed, promoted atheism to young people and conducted illicit relationships with women and stored some of their photographs on his mobile phone. Fayadh denied the accusations of blasphemy and told the court he was a faithful Muslim. According to the court documents, he said: “I am repentant to God most high and am innocent of what appeared in my book mentioned in this case.”

Saudi Arabia executed 175 people in the past year, according to figures provided by Amnesty International. In September this year Saudi Arabia was elected as chair of the UN’s Human Rights Council Panel. Saudi Arabia is Britain’s most valuable customer in arms sales.


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M.C. Newberry

Mon 23rd Nov 2015 16:16

If the reaction of the "Son of God" to the priests in the temple is any guide then today's impertinent posers in
the name of the Almighty would have merited a similar
reaction. Religion has - like politics - always been about "control" - the primary reason why the two were at
odds so often in history here in the West. The way in
which Islam forces infants to recite endlessly from their
chosen holy book is the most obvious indication of how
fearful and rigid is the framework for that religion.
The report that Saudi Arabia's money is behind the
proliferation of mosques here in the UK poses its own
questions. Why is Islam apparently determined to spread its message through the often vilified "West",
home of the "unbelievers". Is there more to this than
an escape from fundamentalist strictures?

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Mon 23rd Nov 2015 15:39

A great response Harry. Says it all. I mean you have to wonder why so many Muslims have left their countries of origin in the first place, to com and live here in the West - because of dictator type doctrines that take away civil freedoms. You can't blame for them for wanting to settle in the West and peacefully prosper and live their lives.

It is all down to interpretation and how ambiguous that could be.

Personally, I believe that GOD is an alien. That's just my interpretation, but I don't force that on others with a fear of death.

I just don't get religion - it's a form of slavery in a way. Having to pray several times a day. Did God really want that from his people?

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Harry O'Neill

Mon 23rd Nov 2015 00:07

Ashraf`s situation is due to what we would call an extreme
form of theocratic Islamism.

As a guy said on Sunday Morning Live last week, the issue
facing Islam is the interpretation of the Koran.

The media coverage has rather enhanced the alarm effect
of the recent jihad terrorism and this talk about a different
kind of internal terrorist `war` makes me wonder about:

1...The various - and unresolved - `Arab Springs`.

2...The establishment of a possibly rallying `Caliphite`.

3...The historic example of the amazingly rapid military
spread of Islam in the sixth and seventh centuries.

4...The (apparently?) opposite attitudes of Iran and Saudi
to the `theological` situation of ISIS.

5...Ukraine and the probable `rickerty` nature of any
combined U.S. European, and Russian action against ISIS.

6...The ambiguity of some Moslem interpretation Of the
Jihad type sections of the Koran.

And wonder which branch of Koran interpretation commands
authority among the `silent majority` of the Moslems who
dwell among us in Britain.

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ken eaton-dykes

Sun 22nd Nov 2015 16:11

Confiscate all properties and investments, the rich
saudi's hold in this country.

What the royal saudi's get up to behind closed doors, would under the rules of islam. more than likely earn any one else the death penalty

And I refuse to dignify them or their rotten country with capitol letters

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M.C. Newberry

Sun 22nd Nov 2015 15:52

JC makes powerful points in this context. Autocratic power
fears and cannot abide wilful and arbitrary challenge that
unsettles/undermines its authority.
David Addington - you are thinking of Idi Amin, the "butcher
of Kampala". I had a copy of a hilarious "p...-take" in
book form of that grotesque by the then editor of the
famous "Punch" magazine...putting side-splitting words
into Amin's mouth - as if it was his diary. In Uganda, it
would have undoubtedly warranted the death penalty!!

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John Coopey

Sun 22nd Nov 2015 12:51

Unquestionably the former, John.
Poetry is so impotent in liberal democracies precisely because any silly bugger can and does say what they like.
The Arts can be so powerful in autocratic regimes because they can't.

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John F Keane

Sun 22nd Nov 2015 11:00

It is interesting how the ruling regimes in many other countries seem to have such interest in what poets, writers and artists say/do. Is such creative oppression reflective of authoritarian values or rather the relative impotence/insignificance of the arts in western countries?

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Sat 21st Nov 2015 23:22

and back to the poetry as the world, sadly ticks on and we are here to write about it - the human condition...

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M.C. Newberry

Sat 21st Nov 2015 16:54

This sort of barbaric mindset reminds me of the lines in
a famous Oscar-winning David Lean epic - placed in
the mouth of TE Lawrence when he confronted Sherif Ali
after the latter shot another Arab at a life-giving well in the desert. His condemnation of the behaviour of Arab peoples ("silly, barbarous and cruel" as I recall) still
seems entirely relevant today in Saudi Arabia.

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Tim Ellis

Sat 21st Nov 2015 13:26

People in Syria and Libya a few years ago "flocked together to take out their oppressive leaders", David, and look what happened. It's not as simple as that. But I agree that the west needs to be a lot tougher on Saudi Arabia.

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Sat 21st Nov 2015 09:54

Reminds me of Idi Amman (not sure if I spelt that right), who also persecuted poets and artists if they refused to promote the police state of Uganda.

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Sat 21st Nov 2015 09:52

It will never happen though, because us humans are just too fucking dumb do anything about it.

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Sat 21st Nov 2015 09:49

Sick, that's what it is. 2015 and this type of thing is still going on, on Earth. Haven't we learned anything?

The world powers are supposed to be tackling extremism and yet we are allied with Saudi. I think it's time that we all flocked together and took out all oppressive regimes and leaders across the globe to ensure a more positive future for the human race.

I'm only being hypothetical - mouthing off. Not that other people are not thinking the same. It's upsetting to say the least and cruelly misguided.

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