Prague, Jan 14 (CTK) – Czech poets will read their works yesterday within a worldwide event in support of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, 35, who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, poet Adam Borzic, organiser of the Prague reading that starts at the Faculty of Arts at 19:00, has told CTK.
“The public reading was initiated in Berlin. Fayadh is a honorary member of the German PEN club. Many other countries have joined it and we believe that such an international appeal may have some weight,” Borzic told CTK.
At least 151 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, which has been the highest figure since 1995. In the previous years, it was around 90 annually. The executed people are often convicted of terrorism and drug smuggling.
“It is horrifying that a poet was sentenced to death for love poems,” Borzic said.
“We do not hope that writers persecuted this way will be released immediately, but similar appeals can lead to the softening of their sentences,” said publisher Marketa Hejkalova, member of the committee for imprisoned writers of the PEN Club’s Czech centre.
According to the Saudi religious authorities, Fayadh’s collection of love lyrics contains some atheistic formulations. The charges are also based on his posts on Twitter and wiretapped phone conversations. The death penalty is the culmination of a long trial in the previous phases of which severe prison sentences and whipping were imposed on him.
The International PEN Club stood up for Fayadh last November and demanded his immediate release.
The highest number of convicts are annually executed in China and Iran. In China, writers, bloggers and journalists are still persecuted for the criticism of the governing regime and human rights violations even at the beginning of the 21st century.
Hejkalova also pointed out the cases of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority living in China.
Hundreds of imprisoned and persecuted writers are on the PEN club’s list created in the 1960s among others in support of the persecuted Czechoslovak writers.
The committee of the Czech PEN Club now deals with the persecution of writers from China and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The international criticism has probably led to the lowering of the sentence imposed on Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
Badawi, founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested on suspicion of offending Islam on his website in 2012 and then sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 whips. The physical punishment started last January with the first 50 whips, but the rest of the sentence has been postponed so far.
Badawi received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought last year.
His sister Samar Badawi, human rights activist, was arrested on Tuesday. She was charged with having administered the Twitter account of her imprisoned husband Waleed Abulkhair, human rights advocate who worked as a lawyer. He also defended his brother-in-law.