Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Report from our February meeting

23 Feb


Arms export licences from the UK worth £5.5 billion in the last 5 years, bombs worth £1.7 billion and a further 37 arms export licences since 2014. All for Saudi Arabia which, since 2014, has been waging war on an armed rebel group, the Huthis, in Yemen. Schools and civilian targets have been bombed, and hundreds of civilians killed. Read more and sign the petition here.

For our Monthly Action we sent a petition to David Cameron calling on him to suspend all arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and call for an international investigation into human rights violations committed by all sides.

Our Group held its AGM this month. The overall message was ‘Steady as she goes’, with group numbers maintained, and points to be focussed on both in past activities and future campaigns.

We took part in the United Reformed Church’s Christmas Tree Festival, actively supported Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign and the Taunton Literary Festival’s impressive young speaker Gulwali Passarlay, talking about his account of his journey from Afghanistan to the UK in “The Lightless Sky”.

We continue to work on the Death Penalty, on North Africa, China, Women’s Rights and the Unity 5 group of imprisoned journalists in Burma. We wait with concerned interest to see how things will develop in Burma after the recent elections.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 8pm. Check the venue and our other activities on amnestytaunton.wordpress.com. All are welcome.


Poet facing execution in Saudi Arabia

10 Feb


Ashraf, a 35-year-old poet and artist, is sentenced to be executed by Saudi Arabian authorities for his art.

On 17 November, the General Court in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia, found Ashraf guilty of ‘apostasy’ – renouncing Islam – for his poetry and sentenced him to death.

Arrested for poetry and pictures on his phone

Ashraf was initially arrested on 6 August 2013 following a complaint registered against him by another Saudi citizen, who said that the poet was promoting atheism and spreading blasphemous ideas among young people. Ashraf was released the following day, but then rearrested on 1 January 2014, when he was charged with apostasy – he had supposedly questioned religion and spread atheist thought with his poetry. He was at the same time charged with violating the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law for allegedly taking and storing photos of women on his phone.

On 30 April 2014, Ashraf was sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for the charges relating to images of women on his phone. The General Court accepted Ashraf’s apology for the charges of apostasy and found the punishment to be satisfactory.

However, the court of appeal recommended that Ashraf should still be sentenced for apostasy, and his case was sent back to the General Court, which in turn sentenced him to death for apostasy.

Throughout this whole process, Ashraf was denied access to a lawyer – a clear violation of international human rights law, as well as Saudi Arabia’s national laws.

What we’re calling for

Quite simply, we’re calling for Ashraf to be freed. He has committed no crime, and as such should not be imprisoned, let alone face execution.

We’re asking the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop Ashraf’s conviction and all charges against him. We’re also asking for them to stop executing anyone for ‘apostasy’.

Please sign the petition here calling for Ashraf’s release.

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