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Campaign renewed after jailed Qatari poet in solitary confinement loses appeal

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Campaigners have renewed their fight to end the detention of a Qatari poet, after his appeal against a 15-year sentence was turned down last month. Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami’s jail term for “criticising the ruler” and “inciting the overthrow of the ruling system” was upheld on 21 October. He remains in solitary confinement in Doha Central prison.

According to human rights and freedom of speech campaigners PEN International, Ajami was a literature student at Cairo University in 2010 when he recited a poem in his apartment among friends, in which he criticized the former emir, Sheikh Hamad al Thani. The poem was in response to a poem by a fellow poet, but one of the students in the apartment recorded Ajami and uploaded the reading on YouTube. According to Ajami’s lawyer Dr Najeeb al-Nauimi, a former justice minister in Qatar, the poem was spoken in a private setting and thus violated no law. Another of Ajami’s poems - ‘Tunisian Jasmine - which expressed support for the 2011 uprising in Tunisia and criticised other Arab governments was circulated on the internet.

Ajami was sentenced to life in November 2012 on charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling system” and “criticising the [then] emir and the crown prince [now emir]” in his poetry. Earlier this year his sentence was reduced to 15 years. Following the court’s latest ruling, his only legal hope is to be pardoned by the emir.

PEN International says Ajami was arrested on 16 November 2011, after responding to a summons, and was detained incommunicado for several months. His trial was repeatedly postponed. Ajami has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest. You can find details on how to support the campaign to free Ajami here 





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M.C. Newberry

Sat 16th Nov 2013 11:43

The recitation seems some way removed from
public incitement to disaffection and hatred,
even less when any wider distribution via
Youtube was NOT the action of its author.
How tragic that a country can be ruled and the
law enforced by those so fearful of poetry spoken
in private.
These same souls would no doubt insist on being
thought civilised and treated as such by more
advanced nations. They should be ashamed.

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