A Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy has told a local news website in an interview from inside prison that he isn't an atheist and that his case centers around a personal dispute he had with someone.

Ashraf Fayadh was quoted Thursday in Mecca Online saying a Saudi college student he knew filed a complaint to religious police accusing him of being an atheist and trying to spread atheism through a book of poetry he wrote.

Fayadh says his poems have been misinterpreted by some.

A Saudi court initially sentenced him to 800 lashes and four years in prison, but he says an appeals court recommended his charges and punishment be stiffened. The lower court then issued its death sentence last week, which he is appealing.