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Death sentence repealed, but Palestinian poet still faces flogging, jail

Instagram/Ashraf Fayadh

This statement was originally published on pen-international.org on 2 February 2016.

A Saudi Arabian court today replaced a death sentence for Palestinian poet, Ashraf Fayadh, with an eight year prison term and 800 lashes on charges of apostasy.

Since a death sentence was handed down to Ashraf Fayadh on 20 November 2015, PEN International has campaigned for his immediate and unconditional release in the belief that the charges bought against him are simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief.

“Instead of rightfully acquitting and releasing poet, Ashraf Fayadh, today the Saudi courts have simply prolonged this injustice by imposing a lengthy prison sentence and abhorrent physical punishment. Ashraf Fayadh has already served time in prison simply for exercising his legitimate right to freedom of expression – we will continue to press the Saudi authorities for his immediate release.” – Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International.

Fayadh, Palestinian poet and member of British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, 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.

On 27 November 2015, over 1000 poets and writers from around the world, including Adonis, Paul Muldoon and Charles Simić, signed a letter calling for his release, which was published alongside an open letter from international freedom of expression organisations. On 14 January 2015, PEN Centres took part in a worldwide reading of Fayadh's poetry, which took place in more than 40 countries.

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