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CNN – Hundreds of writers around the world have joined human rights groups in urging Saudi Arabia to release a poet who faces the death sentence on charges of “apostasy” for his poetry.
Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh, 35, was sentenced to death by a court in the southwestern Saudi city of Abha earlier this month on a series of blasphemy charges, according to Human Rights Watch, which viewed the trial documents.
The charges included insulting the “Divine Self” and the Prophet Mohammed, mocking the Quran and spreading atheism.
Fayadh had originally been handed a lesser sentence of four years in prison and 800 lashes on the charge of having inappropriate relations with members of the opposite sex.
The court had dismissed a prosecution request for a death sentence on the apostasy charge, citing Fayadh’s declared “repentance” and testimony that indicated hostility between Fayadh and the complainant, HRW said.