BHA and coalition of human rights groups demand release of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia

27 November, 2015

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has joined with more than 60 other human rights organisations in writing to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Justice to demand the immediate release of Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet who has been sentenced to death by the Saudi regime for the crime of ‘apostasy’.

The letter’s signatories have told Saudi Arabia that the sentence represents a severe violation of Fayadh’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of belief, and has drawn attention to Saudi Arabia’s hypocritical status as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, ‘the pre-eminent intergovernmental body tasked with protecting and promoting human rights.’

Another issue of concern is an apparent lack of due process in Fayadh’s trial. The poet was denied legal representation throughout his trial and continues to be denied access to a lawyer during his 30-day window to appeal his sentence.

2015 has been a year of increased international activism on freedom of expression for the BHA, which helped to found the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws earlier in the year. It has argued strongly to the UN Human Rights Council on numerous occasions about the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia and member nations’ treatment of non-religious people and religious minorities through blasphemy and apostasy laws. It also strongly condemned the state’s elevation within the Human Rights Council.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses continue to appall the civilised world. It is a state which will freely torture and execute teenagers, freethinkers, humanists, and political opponents of all shades. Its oppressive and inhumane laws condemn and criminalise humanism, scepticism, and the free and honest expression of ideas.

‘At the same time, Saudi Arabia continues to insist that it complies with the human rights treaties it is signed up to by virtue of its adherence to a strict Islamic orthodoxy. We join with all those who fundamentally reject that argument and plead with the authorities to recognise instead the fundamental rights to which all members of the human family are entitled, regardless of where in the world they happen to be born or reside. The charges against Fayadh must be dropped.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the open letter organised by PEN International:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion of belief