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Saudi court overturns death sentence for Ashraf Fayadh; new sentence is 8 years and 800 lashes

Middle East
on 15 Comments

I stand naked every day without any judgment, without anyone needing to blow any last trump, because I have been sent on in advance. I am Hell’s experiment on the planet Earth.

The Hell that has been prepared for refugees. 

           Ashraf Fayadh ~ The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants

Yesterday, a panel of judges in Saudi Arabia overturned the death sentence of Palestinian artist, curator, and poet Ashraf Fayadh but upheld the verdict of the crime of apostasy and sentenced him to eight years in prison and 800 lashes. Fayadh was ordered to disown his writings, repent and apologize on official Saudi Arabia national television. His sentence calls for the lashings to be carried out “50 lashes at a time per session”.

A statement by Fayadh's attorney, Abdulrahman Al-Lahim, in response to the ruling.

A statement by Fayadh’s attorney, Abdulrahman Al-Lahim, in response to the ruling.

Stressing Fayadh’s innocence, his lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahim posted the details of his sentence on Twitter yesterday after presenting the court with an application for Kayadh’s release on bail and announced they would launch an appeal.

The document concludes with the statement (translated from Arabic):

The defense appreciates the department’s going back on its previous sentencing decision, and at the same time we would like to emphasize our conviction of the innocence of the poet Ashraf Fayyad from all the charges presented against him. He is in a legally sound position and stands by his defense that has already been previously heard in the sentencing objection document.

The Guardian cites Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch:

“Instead of beheading Ashraf Fayadh, a Saudi court has ordered a lengthy imprisonment and flogging. No one should face arrest for peacefully expressing opinions, much less corporal punishment and prison. Saudi justice officials must urgently intervene to vacate this unjust sentence.”

And UK author Irvine Welsh said:

“When this twisted barbarism is thought of as a compromise, it’s way past time western governments stopped dealing with this pervert regime.”

Fayadh’s previous November 17, 2015 sentence of execution by beheading was met with international outrage and calls for his requital. A world wide reading of his poems and other writings sponsored by International Literature Festival Berlin (iLb), supported by poets, artists, and intellectuals around the world including several Nobel Prize for Literature laureates, took place in January, and people from all over the world began uploading videos of themselves readings his poems on Youtube.

Fayadh was originally detained by Saudi Arabia’s religious police in August 2013 after he had an argument with another artist who alleged he had cursed Allah and the prophet Muhammad. The religious police claimed his 2008 book of poetry  Instructions Within promoted atheism. Fayadh said his book was “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.”

Thanks to Zeina Azzam
Thanks to diasp0ra for Arabic translation

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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15 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    February 3, 2016, 12:09 pm

    50 lashes for each of 16 sessions.
    What do you think – 2 sessions per year?

    If 800 at once, it might kill people.

  2. a blah chick
    February 3, 2016, 2:13 pm

    Is there another country, save Israel, that gets away with more crap?

    • Susan A
      February 4, 2016, 12:23 pm

      No. Except,perhaps, Bahrain, who see fit to imprison doctors for treating wounded demonstrators to fifteen years in prison. And it was, of course, the Saudis who sent in their tanks to help them out. :(

  3. eljay
    February 3, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Saudi Arabia is a sick, brutal country. But it’s the country Zio-supremacists look to when defending the “Jewish State”:

    { Zio-supremacist: The “Jewish State” is a Western-style democracy, a moral beacon and a light unto the nations! }
    { Normal person: Israel is a religion-supremacist state that has been occupying and colonizing Palestine and committing (war) crimes with impunity for decades. }
    { Zio-supremacist: Oh, yeah? Well, at least it’s not as bad as Saudi Arabia! }

  4. diasp0ra
    February 3, 2016, 4:19 pm

    The day we see the end of Wahhabi totalitarianism will be a good day. The US backed fascists in the Gulf need to go.

  5. Stephen Shenfield
    February 3, 2016, 4:46 pm

    What happens to him if he refuses to go along with the “public repentance” on national television? After all, what has he to repent for?

    He himself speaks like a prophet denouncing the wealthy and powerful. They never did like prophets.

    Israel cannot be defended by comparing it to Saudi Arabis because it too is a theocratic state. For historical reasons Israel is less extreme in this respect than Saudi Arabia, but it is making admirable efforts to close the gap.

    • diasp0ra
      February 3, 2016, 5:02 pm


      I would guess that they would probably go back to his original sentence.

  6. Laurent Weppe
    February 4, 2016, 2:07 am

    petroleum is harmless, except for the trace of poverty it leaves behind

    your mute blood will not speak up 
    as long as you pride yourself in death
    as long as you keep announcing -secretly- that you have put your soul 
    at the hands of those who do not know much.. 

    Haaaa, I see: Not much against God but a lot of his poem where critical of the Saudi’s regime. So basically, Ashraf Fayadh is being punished for the crime of lese-majesty.

    From Wikipedia:

    This behavior was first classified as a criminal offence against the dignity of the Roman Republic of Ancient Rome. In the Dominate, or Late Empire period the emperors eliminated the Republican trappings of their predecessors and began to identify the state with their person […] by the time it was replaced by Christianity, what was in all but name a monarchical tradition had already become well-established.

    No tradition is more proudly Western than aping decadent pagan rulers in the name of a monotheistic faith. The House of Saud is much more similar to our elites than we’d like to admit.

  7. tony greenstein
    February 4, 2016, 8:52 am

    One question I would ask about the barbaric treatment of Ashraf is why hasn’t the President of the so-called Palestinian state spoken up about this travesty of justice? Why has Mahmoud Abbas kept his mouth shut? Just as he aids and helps the Israeli occupation so he helps and aids the Arab states when they oppress Palestinians.

    Whilst it is welcome that, for the moment, the death sentence has been removed, a sentence of 8 years and 800 lashes is barbaric in itself.

    • echinococcus
      February 4, 2016, 12:47 pm


      “The President of the so-called Palestinian state” hasn’t spoken up about not only travesty of justice but open massacre of the very Palestinians in Palestine! He is sitting in a chair created for the “Israeli” aboriginal police. Can’t afford to speak up for Saudis.

    • Susan A
      February 4, 2016, 1:02 pm

      Good question Tony; I just looked at the first item from the link given above and apparently the PA did make a public statement requesting his release
      It’s not usual for me to come up in defence of the PA, but we have to acknowledge that they have
      said something. Doubtless its a question of funding, whereby they don’t speak of Saudi Arabia’s barbarism. Sickening.

      • diasp0ra
        February 4, 2016, 1:47 pm


        Yeah, the PA even needed to join the “coalition” against “terrorism” in Yemen to suck up to Saudi Arabia because that is the hand that feeds, unfortunately.

        Of course we have nothing to actually contribute, it’s more of a gesture of solidarity with the guys with the bucks.

    • Talkback
      February 7, 2016, 6:40 am

      A question I would ask about this barbaric treatment is why hasn’t the prime minster of the so-called Jewish state spoken in favour about a travesty of justice against Arabs?

  8. JLewisDickerson
    February 4, 2016, 6:48 pm

    RE: “When this twisted barbarism is thought of as a compromise, it’s way past time western governments stopped dealing with this pervert regime.” – UK author Irvine Welsh

    MY COMMENT: I understand and agree with Irvine Welsh’s sentiments, but I am a bit concerned about his choice of words. Specifically, his reference to the Saudi regime as “this pervert regime” might suggest to some people that perverts as a group (i.e., in general) are as degenerate as the Saudi regime.

    Although some perverts might well be as degenerate (or, even more degenerate) than the Saudi regime, it is possible that there some perverts of a more benign nature who, despite being deviants, are not nearly as degenerate as the Saudi regime. (Dick Morris’ toe sucking comes to mind.) These less degenerate perverts do not deserve to be categorized (even unintentionally) with the likes of the Saudi regime.

    Consequently, I must object to Mr. Welsh’s reference to the Saudi regime as “this pervert regime” because it has the potential to foster the impression that all perverts are as degenerate as the Saudi regime. While this might not be unfair to most perverts, I suspect there are some who do not even come close to the Saudi regime’s league, and whatever degeneracy they might have pales very substantially when compared to the degeneracy of the Saudi regime.

    Perversion –
    List of paraphilias –

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