A Saudi court overturned the death sentence for Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh on Tuesday, his lawyer announced in a statement the same day.
Fayadh was sentenced to the death penalty in November for “apostasy” and allegedly emitting “blasphemous statements” in some of his poetry.
The poet’s sentence has been changed to eight years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court of the city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
Fayadh’s lawyer, Abd al-Rahman al-Laham, hailed the downgraded sentence, while maintaining that Fayadh was innocent on all charges.
Under the new sentence, Fayadh would be subjected to 16 sessions of 50 lashes each, al-Laham said. The lawyer added that he would appeal in the coming days.
In May, the general court of Abha sentenced had Fayadh to four years in prison and 800 lashes, but the prosecution, which had called for the death sentence, had successfully appealed. The downgraded sentence effectively adds four more years in prison to the original sentence.
Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrested Fayadh in January 2014 for poetry he had published in 2008.
Fayadh had previously been arrested in 2013 after a complaint was filed against him alleging that he spread “misleading ideas.” However, he had quickly been released due to lack of evidence.
In November, Human Rights Watch slammed the death sentence handed down to Fayadh, calling it “yet another indictment of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.”