7th December 2015 | Palestinian Centre for Human Rights | Press release
On 17 November 2015, a Saudi court sentenced to death a Palestinian Refugee, Ashraf Fayadh (35), for alleged blasphemous statements during a discussion, which are also mentioned in his poetry. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon you to participate in the global efforts to halt Fayadh’s execution and to release him.
On 01 January 2014, Saudi authorities arrested Fayadh, who lives in Saudi Arabia since he was born. He was charged with, inter alia, insulting the “Divine Self” and the Prophet Muhammad; mocking and refuting the verses of God and the Prophet’s; spreading atheism; and denying the Day of Resurrection, Fate and Divine Decree. The charges mainly depended on a complaint reported by someone to the police relevant to Fayadh’s poetry published in 2008.
Fayadh denied the charges against him and called three witnesses to refute the testimony of the man who reported him to the religious police. The defense witnesses said that the man reported Fayadh following a personal dispute and that they had never heard blasphemous statements from Fayadh. Fayadh also stressed that his book of love poetry titled “Instructions Within” was published 8 years ago and never written to insult religion.
Fayadh emphasized that he was innocent and begged the court for mercy saying, “I am repentant to God Most Gracious and I am innocent of what was mentioned in my book in this case.” However, the court convicted Fayadh and sentenced him to four years in prison and 800 lashes, on 26 May 2014.
The situation became worse when the prosecutor had appealed the ruling. As a result, the appeal court referred the case to the lower court but with a different judge. The new judge reversed the previous sentence and sentenced Fayadh to death for apostasy, on 17 November, 2015. The sentence must be approved by the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court to be applied.
Fayadh has not got the minimum guarantees of the fair trial. He was denied the right to access to his lawyer during interrogations. The court ignored the testimonies of the defense witnesses. Moreover, the convection itself goes against the minimum standards of human rights, especially the right to speech and freedom of conscience.
Five UN Special Rapporteurs in a joint statement issued on 03 December 2015 urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of Fayadh. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, highlighted that the execution verdict of Fayadh was issued “on basis seemingly unreliable evidence to the effect that he exercised his freedom of expression after an unfair trial. This has to be deplored as an arbitrary and thus unlawful execution”
The misery of Fayadh also has been moving some international, regional, and national NGOs to take actions to prevent his execution. Amnesty International launched a letter-writing campaign for calling the Saudi authorities to release Fayadh. Human Rights Watch and the Arab Organization for Human Rights addressed the issue as well. Therefore, a lot of efforts are needed from all of us to rescue Fayadh’s life.
PCHR calls upon you to take urgent actions to pressurize the Saudi officials to release Fayadh. Taking an action now could save the life of an innocent man who is going to be beheaded in a savage manner. In addition, your action will be an important precedent against the death penalty in general and against persecution of freedom of conscience in particular.
Director of PCHR