SAUDI ARABIA: PALESTINIAN POET SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR APOSTASY
November 20, 2015: A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Palestinian poet to death for apostasy, abandoning his Muslim faith, according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch, its Middle East researcher Adam Coogle said.
Ashraf Fayadh was detained by the country's religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.
The verdict of that court sentenced him to four years in prison and 800 lashes but after appeal another judge passed a death sentence on Fayadh three days ago, said Coogle.
"I have read the trial documents from the lower court verdict in 2014 and another one from 17 November. It is very clear he has been sentenced to death for apostasy," Coogle said.
Fayadh's conviction was based on evidence from a prosecution witness who claimed to have heard him cursing God, Islam's Prophet Mohammad and Saudi Arabia, and the contents of a poetry book he had written years earlier.
The case went to the Saudi appeals court and was then returned to the lower court, where a different judge on November 17 increased the sentence to death. The second judge ruled defence witnesses who had challenged the prosecution witness' testimony ineligible. (Sources: Reuters, 20/11/2015)