Ashraf the Atheist Death Penalty Overturned
If you commit blasphemy or apostasy in most Islamic countries, you can be imprisoned, flogged or executed. That means it is illegal to insult the Quran or Muhammad or leave Islam. That is the realty the people of Saudi Arabia face, living under sharia laws.
Palestinian Ashraf Fayadh is an atheist living in Saudi Arabia, is a member of the British-Saudi art organization Edge of Arabia, and has curated art shows in Jeddah and Venice. . In 2013, a man in a café Ashraf was in, reportedly complained to the kingdom’s religious police, accusing Fayadh of insulting Islam in his book of poems and insulting the Saudi state. The religious police went to the café after a the man reported that Fayadh had made obscene comments about God, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Saudi state. The man also alleged that Fayadh passed around a book he wrote that allegedly promoted atheism and unbelief.
After Fayadh was arrested, the court documents indicate, the religious police discovered on his phone photos of Fayadh with several women, whom Fayadh said he met at an art gallery. The religious police held him for a day, then released him, but authorities re-arrested him on January 1, 2014. Prosecutors charged him with a host of blasphemy-related charges, including: blaspheming “the divine self” and the Prophet Muhammad; spreading atheism and promoting it among the youth in public places; mocking the verses of God and the prophets; refuting the Quran; denying the day of resurrection; objecting to fate and divine decree; and having an illicit relationship with women and storing their pictures in his phone.
On May 26, 2014, the General Court of Abha convicted Fayadh and sentenced him to four years in prison and 800 lashes. The court rejected a prosecution request for a death sentence for apostasy due to trial testimony indicating “hostility” between Fayadh and the man who reported him, as well as Fayadh’s repentance.
The prosecutor appealed the ruling. On November 17, 2015, a new judge with the General Court of Abha reversed the previous sentence and sentenced Fayadh to death for apostasy.
In early 2016, Fayadhs’ sentence was once again overturned, saving him from execution. It has now been reduced to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes, over 16 weeks. Fifty lashes per week. Fayadh must also declare his repentance to the media, for the crimes of blasphemy and sex outside of marriage.
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Library of Congress- Apostasy laws of twenty-three countries in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and primarily focuses on jurisdictions that make apostasy, or renouncing one’s religion, a capital offense.
Saudi Arabia overturns Ashraf Fayadhs death sentence but upholds convection