Saudi regime sentences Palestinian poet to death
The Saudi regime has sentenced a Palestinian poet and leading figure in the kingdom’s growing contemporary art to death over accusations of insulting and renouncing Islam, which he has categorically denied.
A court on Tuesday gave Ashraf Fayadh the death penalty and the 35-year-old artist now only has 30 days to appeal, reports said on Friday.
His supporters say the verdict is issued to punish him for posting a video online that showed religious police in Abha, a city in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, lashing a man in public.
Fayadh was first given a four-year jail term and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha in 2014. But his appeal was dismissed and he was again tried in October this year and this time judges ruled that he must be executed despite his repentance.
“I was really shocked but it was expected, though I didn’t do anything that deserves death,” the poet said.
Mona Kareem, a rights activist from Kuwait who has launched 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.”
Fayadh did not even have a lawyer as his ID was confiscated when he was arrested last year, Kareem added.
“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.”
The activist said some people in Saudi Arabia believe the execution was ordered as “revenge by the morality police.” Kareem argued that Fayadh has been targeted because he is a Palestinian refugee despite being born in Saudi Arabia.