ASHRAF FAYADH, POET AND ARTIST, SENTENCED TO DEATH IN SAUDI ARABIA FOR HIS ART
Ashraf Fayadh, a 35-year-old poet and artist, is sentenced to be executed by Saudi Arabian authorities for his art. On 17 November, the General Court in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia, found Ashraf guilty of ‘apostasy’ – renouncing Islam – for his poetry and sentenced him to death.
Arrested for poetry and pictures on his phone: Ashraf was initially arrested on 6 August 2013 following a complaint registered against him by another Saudi citizen, who said that the poet was promoting atheism and spreading blasphemous ideas among young people. Ashraf was released the following day, but then rearrested on 1 January 2014, when he was charged with apostasy – he had supposedly questioned religion and spread atheist thought with his poetry. He was at the same time charged with violating the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law for allegedly taking and storing photos of women on his phone.
On 30 April 2014, Ashraf was sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for the charges relating to images of women on his phone. The General Court accepted Ashraf’s apology for the charges of apostasy and found the punishment to be satisfactory. However, the court of appeal recommended that Ashraf should still be sentenced for apostasy, and his case was sent back to the General Court, which in turn sentenced him to death for apostasy. Throughout this whole process, Ashraf was denied access to a lawyer – a clear violation of international human rights law, as well as Saudi Arabia’s national laws.
A death sentence for ‘apostasy’: Apostasy (Riddah, in Arabic) is the renouncing of Islam. Saudi Arabia follows Sharia (Islamic) law, and ‘apostasy’ can be punishable by death. Yet ‘apostasy’ is not a crime – it is a violation of someone’s right to belief or choose our own religion. It should never incur punishment. In addition to that, the death penalty, according to international law, may only be used for the ‘most serious crimes’ (recently interpreted by UN experts to refer to ‘intentional killing’). Apostasy is not a crime at all, let alone a serious one.
The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – it violates our right to life and our right to be free from torture. At Amnesty, we believe the death penalty should never be used.
Quite simply, we’re calling for Ashraf to be freed. He has committed no crime, and as such should not be imprisoned, let alone face execution.
We’re asking the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop Ashraf’s conviction and all charges against him. We’re also asking for them to stop executing anyone for ‘apostasy’.
fleursdumal.nl digital magazine