Poet Ashraf Fayadh was detained in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia, in 2013 due to allegations by a prosecution witness, who claimed he heard Fayadh cursing God, the Prophet Mohammed and Saudi Arabia. Also, the prosecution alleged offenses based on a book of poems Fayadh had written several years prior to that.
The poet’s friends, however, believe he was being punished for posting a video showing Saudi Arabia’s religious police (mutaween) lashing a man in public.
— Mona Kareem (@monakareem) July 14, 2015
“They accused me [of] atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society,” Fayadh told The Guardian. 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.”
Human Rights Watch’s Middle East researcher Adam Coogle, who says he has seen the trial documents, confirmed Friday that the death sentence handed down to Fayadh, a Palestinian national, was on charges of “apostasy.”
“I have read the trial documents from the lower court verdict in 2014 and another one from 17 November. It is very clear he has been sentenced to death for apostasy,” Reuters cited Coogle as saying.
According to the court documents, Fayadh denied the blasphemy accusations, saying he is a faithful Muslim.