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  • Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet by abandoning his Muslim faith.

    Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet by abandoning his Muslim faith. | Photo: YouTube

Published 1 December 2015

Twitter users denounced Saudi plans to sue a Twitter user who likened the kingdom to the Islamic State group after a local poet was sentenced to death.

Saudi Arabia came under attack from social media uses Tuesday after a government official suggested that the kingdom will be suing Twitter users who liken the government to the Islamic State group.

According to Reuters, a Saudi Justice Ministry official was quoted by the government-aligned Al Riyadh newspaper last week as saying, “The Justice Ministry will sue the person who described … the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being ‘ISIS-like’.”

The man sentenced to death is Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh who was accused of spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet abandoning his Muslim faith in November. His sentence triggered the hashtag #SaudiArabiaIsISIS, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

According to Human Rights Watch, documents show that Fayadh was initially sentenced to 800 lashes and four years in prison but he was retried and on Nov. 17 was sentenced to death.

His conviction was based on evidence from a prosecution witness who claimed to have heard him cursing God, Islam's Prophet Mohammad and Saudi Arabia, and on the contents of a poetry book he had written years earlier as well as pictures on his cellphone.

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However, the official's comments triggered yet another Twitter hashtag Tuesday, #SueMeSaudi, as social media uses took to the microblogging site to express their dismay at the official's comments.

"Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity," the unnamed source reportedly told the pro-government newspaper.

The Kingdom has executed 152 people in 2015, the highest number on record since 1995, according to Amnesty International. Also, local media reported last week that Saudi authorities planned to execute more than 50 people convicted of "terrorism crimes." The executions are carried by beheading, the same technique used by the Islamic State group.

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In fact the accusations are not far-fetched. Ideologically, Saudi Arabia is far more extreme than any regime in the region. Saudi Arabia’s legal system follows the Wahhabism school of thought, an extreme Sunni interpretation of Islam, one also adopted by the Islamic State group.

Under this harsh law, a number of 'crimes' including blasphemy, apostasy, adultery, treason and 'acts of homosexuality' are punished with the death penalty.

Furthermore, high-level officials in the Saudi government, who in most cases are also members of the royal family, have been accused of funding and supporting the Islamic State group and other extremists on a personal capacity.

However, the extremism of Saudi Arabia has been overlooked globally as it is the biggest oil producer in the world and therefore a key ally of many of the world powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The kingdom is also those nations’ biggest military client, spending billions of dollars in arms deals.

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