Arab Spring supporter Qatar jails poet for urging uprising

Arab Spring supporter Qatar jails poet for urging uprising

DOHA - Reuters
A court in Qatar, which has backed uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, sentenced a poet to life in prison yesterday for incitement to overthrow the government and criticizing the ruling emir, his lawyer said.

In his poetry, Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami praised the Arab Spring revolts that have toppled dictators in four Arab countries since early last year and criticized Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Ajami, 36, who was not present in court, has been jailed in solitary confinement for almost a year during which he has not seen his family, according to his lawyer Nagib al-Naimi.

Miscarriage of justice: Lawyer

“This is a tremendous miscarriage of justice,” Naimi told Reuters after the verdict, adding that he would appeal. Ajami faced charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime,” which carries the death penalty. Qatar’s penal code provides sentences of five years in prison for criticizing the country’s ruler. The Qatari government has backed the armed revolt in Syria, a successful NATO-backed armed uprising in Libya, and street protests that ousted rulers in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

But freedom of expression is tightly controlled in the small Gulf state, with self-censorship prevalent among national newspapers and other media outlets. Qatar has no organized political opposition.