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Saudi Court Spares Poet’s Life but Gives Him 8 Years and 800 Lashes

By Ben Hubbard

“RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A court in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday revised the punishment given to a stateless Palestinian poet convicted of apostasy, reducing it from death to eight years in prison, 800 lashes and public repentance, his lawyer said.

The poet, Ashraf Fayadh, had been sentenced to beheading because of the apostasy conviction announced in November, based partly on his published poetry.

The sentence stirred outrage among international artists and human rights groups at a time when Saudi officials were seeking to rebut comparisons between their application of Sharia law and the practices of the Islamic State extremist group.

The sentence also came near the end of a year in which the Saudi authorities carried out the highest number of executions here in two decades, and just before a mass execution of 47 men on terrorism charges, including a Shiite cleric who had called for the downfall of the royal family…

His legal troubles began when he was arrested in 2013 in the city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia after an argument in a cafe. He was released without charge, but rearrested later and accused of blasphemy and illicit relationships with women. The charges were based on photographs and the contents of his poetry book published abroad years before, according to court documents.

He was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison and 800 blows. But that sentence was thrown out on appeal, and Mr. Fayadh was retried and sentenced to death.”

Read the full article at The New York Times

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