Saudi Arabia: Ashraf Fayadh sentenced to death

Ashraf Fayadh (right) with Chris Dercon. (Credit: Ashraff Ayadh/Instagram)

PEN is appalled at the news that Ashraf Fayadh, a poet, artist, curator, and member of British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, has been sentenced to death. According to reports, Fayadh, originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in May 2014, is now due to be executed following a retrial.

Fayadh was first detained in August 2013 in relation to his collection of poems, Instructions Within. He was released on bail but rearrested in January 2014, accused of ‘atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society’, before being sentenced in May 2014. The dismissal of his appeal led to the retrial which concluded earlier this week. Fayadh is reported to be ‘really shocked’ by the sentence, stating, ‘I didn’t do anything that deserves death.’

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:

We are shocked by the news that a Saudi court has ordered the execution of poet Ashraf Fayadh. This is yet another example of the Kingdom’s complete lack of respect for freedom of expression and its persecution of free thinkers. We call on the Saudi authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, and urge our own government to speak out on his behalf as a matter of urgency.

Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

The decision to sentence Ashraf Fayadh to death is outrageous not only because it is vastly disproportionate to anything he may have done, not only because the death penalty is wrong in every instance, and not only because he has said in mitigation that he has done nothing that deserves death, but also because it is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Saudi Arabia must unconditionally release Fayadh, as well as Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair.

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression programs, PEN American Center, said

We are outraged that Fayadh’s retrial—which should have led to the absurd charges against him being dropped entirely—has instead resulted in a death sentence. We call on the Saudi authorities to cease handing down such draconian sentences for the supposed “crime” of free expression, and to release those already convicted on similar grounds.

PEN urges the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Other cases of particular concern to PEN include the liberal blogger Raif Badawi, winner of the 2015 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage, and his lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair. Badawi has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, while Abulkhair is serving a 15-year prison sentence. English PEN continues to hold regular vigils for Badawi and Abulkhair outside the Saudi Embassy in London; we are also asking members of the public to pledge to protest in the event that Badawi is flogged again.

We are also calling on the British government to put pressure on the Saudi authorities to release Fayadh, Badawi, Abulkhair and others detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression. Just last month, David Cameron claimed he ‘completely disagreed with [the Saudi authorities] about their punishment routines, about the death penalty, about all those issues’. We therefore urge the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to raise Fayadh’s case at the earliest opportunity with the Saudi authorities and to call for his immediate release, as they successfully did in the case of Brit Karl Andree last month.

We’ll be back at the Saudi Embassy next Friday, 27 November, to continue calling for the release of Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair, and now Ashraf Fayadh, Please join us

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

16 Comments on “Saudi Arabia: Ashraf Fayadh sentenced to death”

  1. I appreciate that PEN is protesting against this injustice. The world needs to stand up against this rogue state imparting religious extremism and supporting, funding and propagating radicalization.

  2. What is the difference between Saudi Arabia and ISIS? They are both barbaric religious extremist societies bent on destroying the rights of individuals to free expression, the difference is OIL.

  3. Can it be law and justice, biased, prejudiced, partial and fanatical? I do not what sort of people are they. Religion is all. Such a people is dangerous and it should not be given moral support. It is but medieval justice.

  4. How can a government kill its peaceful inhabitants, habitants it is supposed to protect.
    A government that is so utterly insecure that it feels the need to kill the people that live within their society with different ideas about how society should treat their inhabitants, will only survive with suppression and terror. But terror in the end never wins.

  5. Asylum” from his book “Instructions Within”:

    Asylum: To stand at the end of a queue..

    To be given a morsel of bread.

    To stand!: Something your grandfather used to do.. Without knowing the reason why.

    The Morsel?: You.

    The homeland: A card to put in your wallet.

    Money: Papers that carry images of Leaders.

    The Photo: Your substitution pending your Return.

    And the Return: A mythological creature … from your grandmother’s tales.

    End of First Lesson

  6. Disgusting. Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbaric, least civilised countries in the world. Why do we call them an ‘ally’? For decades, they’ve been using their oil money to spread their poisonous Wahhabism around the world.

  7. This is truly barbaric, it boggles the mind that this type of intolerance exists in a so-called “civilised” country in the 21st century. Is this the way the rulers of Saudi Arabia want the world to view Islam?

  8. It is America which but is giving priority to Saudi Arabia. Had it instructed otherwise, could it have done, committed crimes in the name of religion and justice? Justice is not at all barbarism.

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