Saudi Arabia has issued a death sentence to Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh on the charges of apostasy and renouncing Islam.
The Guardian reports that Fayadh, who has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision, has no access to legal representation.
The report indicates that Fayadh, a 35-year-old Palestinian who was born in Saudi Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in jail and 800 lashes. He had been arrested by the Saudi Religious Police after they received a complaint that he was cursing against Allah and the Prophet Mohammad and that his poetry books promoted atheism.
He was released on bail and then rearrested in January 2014 with his ID confiscated, which prevents him from obtaining a lawyer. He was tried in February and he denied all charges of blasphemy. In May, he was handed a sentence of four years in prison and 800 lashes. His appeal of that sentence was dismissed, but he was reportedly retried last month and sentenced to execution by a new panel of judges.
Fayadh is a member of the British-Saudi art organization Edge of Arabia, which according to The Guardian is part of the small but growing artistic community pushing the boundaries of free speech in Saudi Arabia.
Human Rights Watch has condemned Fayadh’s death sentence as a mark of Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance of anyone who may not share government-mandated religious, political and social views.”
The rights group says this is another mark of “Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record in 2015, which includes the public flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi in January and a death sentence for Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi man accused of protest-related activities allegedly committed before he was 18 years old.”