UN denounces 15-year sentence for dissident Qatari poet

Published Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The United Nations human right’s commission denounced on Tuesday Qatar’s decision to uphold a 15-year prison sentence for a well-known poet, calling the court ruling “clearly disproportionate.”

“We are seriously concerned about the decision taken by Qatar’s highest court on October 20 to uphold a 15-year prison sentence for Mohammed al-Ajami (also known as Ibn al Dheeb), a well-known Qatari poet,” a statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights read. “This sentence is clearly disproportionate.”

“We call for the respect of Mr. Ajami’s right to freedom of expression and for his immediate release.”

Qatar’s Court of Cassation decided on Monday to confirming the sentence given to Ajami by an appeals court in February.

Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the publication of his "Jasmine poem," which criticized governments across the Gulf region in the wake of the series of uprisings in Arab countries.

"We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite," he wrote, referring to the North African nation which was the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

In a clear allusion to Qatar, home to a major US base, he wrote: "I hope that change will come in countries whose ignorant leaders believe that glory lies in US forces."

A lower court had initially sentenced Ajami to life in prison before an appeals court reduced the jail term to 15 years.

Ajami's sole recourse now is to appeal to Qatar's dictator Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for clemency.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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