Saudi Arabia Sentences Poet to Death

Ashraf Fayadh

PEN Canada joins PEN International, English PEN and PEN American Center in their condemnation of the Saudi Arabian authorities’ decision to sentence Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy, and calls for his immediate release.

PEN is appalled at the news that Ashraf Fayadh, a poet 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 shocked by the sentence, stating ‘I didn’t do anything that deserves death’.

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.’

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.

Sahar Halaimzai, Communications & Campaigns Manager, PEN International |