Name: Asharf Fayyad
Date of Birth: 1980
Occupation: Poet and fine artist
Country: Saudi Arabia
Current situation: Detained since the first of January 2014, and was sentenced to death
Ashraf Fayyad is a poet and a fine artist, who belongs to a Palestinian family that has been living in Saudi Arabia for 50 years. Fayyad once represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at Venice Biennale, as he jointly curated an exhibition called “Rhizoma” (A Waiting Generation) with a group of Saudi artists. The 35-year poet has a numerous artistic activities in the Kingdom, including an art exhibition that was inaugurated with the participation of some official bodies in the country.
In the middle of 2013, Fayyad was detained on account of a malicious complaint filed by a citizen to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, in which Fayyad was accused of “carrying misguided and misleading thoughts”.
According to the complaint, Fayyad was intercepted by the religious police- officially known as “the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” (CPVPV) – at a coffee shop in Abha- a city in southern Saudi- in August 2013; owing to a complaint claiming that Fayyad had offended God and Prophet Muhammad as well as the Saudi state. The plaintiff also alleged that Fayyad had promoted atheism through a book of his poems, called “Instruction Within”.
“Fayyad, together with his friend, were watching a UEFA European Football Championship’s match. Following an altercation, Fayyad’s friend insulted him, and threatened him with deportation from Saudi Arabia to Gaza (Palestine) and imprisonment; stressing that he has relations with members of CPVPV. Afterwards, Fayyad got arrested by CPVPV at 9 PM in the coffee shop and was detained for a whole day; however, he was seemingly released for a lack of evidence.
Since that time, Ashraf Fayyad’s suffering had started. In January 2014, CPVPV re-arrested him, referred him to one of Abha’s prisons at southwest Saudi Arabia, and banned his visit. Fayyad was detained against the backdrop of a whole series of charges, including: insulting God and the Prophet Muhammad, spreading and promoting atheism to young people in public places, mocking God’s revelations and Prophets, discrediting the Quran, and denying the coming of Judgment Day, fate and destiny. He was also accused of conducting illicit relationships with women and storing some of their photographs on his mobile phone.
Fayyad denied all the accusations. During his trial, which was convened over six hearings, Fayyad summoned three witnesses, who falsified the testimony of the person that filed a complaint against him to CPVPV. He also emphasized that his book of poems “Instructions Within” was published 10 years ago, and it constitutes love poems; adding that he did not aim to offend God through his poems. Nevertheless, he announced his repentance and regret, saying that he would reverse anything may be deemed offensive by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
On 26 May 2014, “Abha General Court” convicted Ashraf Fayyad and sentenced him to four years in prison, in addition to 800 lashes. The court rejected the prosecutor’s request with regard to the death sentence passed on a charge of apostasy because of the testimony about the “hostility” between Fayyad and the complainant, as well as Fayyad’s repentance.
The sentence was then appealed. The case was, accordingly, returned to the court of lower degree, which sentenced Fayyad to death on a charge of apostasy on the 17th of November 2015. The judge turned down the defense witnesses’ testimony in the first trial and ruled that Fayyad’s repentance did not sufficiently prevent his execution, which should be approved by Court of Appeal as well as the Supreme Court before it becomes enforceable.
What can you do?
1- Write to Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud through his account on the social networking site “Twitter” calling him to release Ashraf Fayyad
2- Write a complaint to the Saudi Royal Diwan on its website: https://tawasol.royalcourt.
3- Write to the Saudi Royal Diwan:
Postal Code: 11111 -Phone: 00966114822222 -City: Riyadh
4- Write to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs concerned with the situation of human rights’ defenders: firstname.lastname@example.org
5- Publish images of Ashraf Fayyad as well as some information about him on your Facebook & Twitter accounts using this hashtag #حريتهم_حقهم
6- Send your country’s newspapers some information about Ashraf Fayyad and the void death sentence issued against him