Surprise release of pardoned Qatari poet after four years in jail
Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami has been pardoned and released after more than four years in prison, English PEN has announced. Cat Lucas of English PEN said: “We are delighted by the unexpected news that, having spent more than four years in prison for his poetry, poet Mohammed al-Ajami has finally been released from prison and reunited with his friends and family.” Carles Torner, PEN International’s executive director, said the news was heartening, but added: “It’s ludicrous that al-Ajami, a father of four, spent almost five years in prison, simply for reciting a poem in private. Qatari authorities must ensure that all its citizens are free to express themselves peacefully.”
Ajami was arrested in Doha in 2011 on charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and “insulting the emir” in his poetry. He was initially sentenced to life in prison, and this was reduced to 15 years on appeal in 2013.
Ajami is among the international writers who will be featured at the inaugural English PEN modern literature festival on 2 April at Rich Mix in London.