Saudi Arabia threatens harsh action against critics of its laws
Following the death sentence recently imposed by a Saudi court on Palestinian artist Ashraf Fayadh, above, the Saudi Justice Ministry said it plans to file a case against someone who wrote on Twitter that Fayadh’s sentence was “IS-like”.
According to this report, an an unnamed official said the Justice Ministry:
Vows to take all necessary legal measures against any person or media outlet that insults the judiciary or compares its rulings to IS.
The official said questioning the kingdom’s justice system is essentially to question the justice of Islamic law.
Meanwhile, the artist is reported as sayingthat he is not an atheist and that his case centres around a personal dispute he had with a college student.
In an interview with Mecca Online from inside a prison in Abha, the southwestern city where he has been held since January 2014, Fayadh said a Saudi college student he knew filed a complaint to religious police accusing him of being an atheist and trying to spread atheism through a book of poetry he wrote.
Religious police detained Fayadh for a few hours after the complaint was filed and then released him, he said.
Fayadh said his poetry book was then sent to a council of clerics for their assessment of its content. The council deemed parts of the book atheistic. He said the Arabic book, called Instructions Within, was published in Lebanon in 2008 and has not been published in Saudi Arabia.
I am not an atheist and it is impossible that I could be. The judgment against me was based on the testimony of this student. The terminology I am condemned for is not even in the book, but the accusation against me was based on wrong interpretations for some of the poems.
Fayadh plans to appeal the verdict, which means the case will likely be tossed back to the appeals court and then the Supreme Court. There are no known cases in recent years of executions for apostasy in Saudi Arabia, despite such verdicts.
International human rights groups have condemned his sentencing. The Palestinian government, the General Union of Arab Writers and The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information are calling for his release.