Ashraf Fayadh’s Death Sentence Repealed; New Ruling Sentences Poet to 8 Years, 800 Lashes

The appeal of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh — who was facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia — was heard today:

The higher court reversed the previous death-sentence ruling and replaced it with eight years, eight hundred lashes, and public repentance.

That sentence, issued on November 17, 2015, reversed an earlier decision that had sentenced the prominent poet and to four years and 800 lashes. The sentence was for “blasphemous” statements and for allegedly “promoting atheism” in his 2008 poetry collection Instructions Within. Fayadh has consistently denied the charges. The charge of apostasy has apparently been dropped, although a charge of inappropriate relations with the opposite gender — photos on his phone of him standing next to women at art exhibitions — stands.

A statement by Fayadh’s attorney, Abdulrahman Al-Lahim, in response to the ruling can be read online. Reaction on Twitter was mixed, with relief, continued outrage, and some insisting there was “no place for atheists” in Saudi Arabia.

Fayadh’s attorney said he would continue to press for his client’s release, saying that he was innocent of the charges.

You can read Fayadh’s poetry in multiple translations on ArabLit.