Qatari Poet Given Life Sentence for ‘Insulting’ Verse

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Muhammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami’s poem praised the Arab Spring while criticizing Gulf region governments.

(CNN) — A Qatari poet who received a life sentence for a verse of poetry said to be insulting to Qatar’s emir will appeal his case, according to his lawyer.

Najeeb Al-Naimi told CNN that his client, Muhammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, has been jailed since November 2011. He called the sentence, which was handed down Thursday, “a miscarriage of justice.”

According to rights group Amnesty International, which also condemned the life sentence, al-Ajami was arrested “following the publication of his ‘Jasmine Poem,’ which broadly criticized governments across the Gulf region.”

Al-Ajami’s poem, which praised Tunisia’s revolution as well as other Arab Spring uprisings, was also critical of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

“It is deplorable that Qatar, which likes to paint itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, is indulging in what appears to be such a flagrant abuse of that right,” Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement on Thursday.

Al-Naimi, who said his client was not in court when the sentence was issued, is outraged.

“Our system gives people freedom to express themselves,” the attorney said.

“Everybody is equal and has to have their rights. This sentence blows out our constitution and infringes on our legal system.”

 

By Mohammed Jamjoom

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/+1-404-827-WIRE(9473)
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