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Palestinian to appeal Saudi death sentence for poetry

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A relative of the Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy says his defense lawyers plan to appeal.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan news website quoted Ashraf Fayadh’s brother-in-law, Osama Abu Raya, as saying the verdict announced Tuesday is an initial sentence. Defense lawyers have until mid-December to file the appeal.

Fayadh was arrested in January 2014. Al-Watan reported that he was charged with blasphemy, spreading atheism and having long hair, along with other charges.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said today that Fayadh has denied the charges, which stem from a published book of his poetry and from a complaint lodged by a man who accused Fayadh of making blasphemous statements during a heated discussion at a cafe.