Qatari Poet Sentenced for ‘Threatening to Overthrow the Regime’ Loses Final Appeal

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Current Affairs, World Affairs
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Qatar’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest judicial body, upheld a 15-year prison sentence earlier this week for poet Muhammad Rashid al-Ajami, who goes by the poetic name Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb.

The Qatari citizen had been seeking a retrial after he was first convicted by a lower court last year of “inciting the overthrow of the regime” with his poetry and given a life sentence, which was then reduced by the Appeals Court in February to 15 years in jail.

“There is no justice,” Ibn al-Dheeb’s outspoken lawyer Najeeb al-Nauimi told Qatar-based Doha News. “Our judicial system cannot be trusted.”

International human rights groups have widely condemned the trial of a poet as an attack on freedom of expression.

Reacting to Monday’s ruling, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth questioned Qatar’s free speech record:
Ibn al-Dheeb has been jailed in Qatar since 2011, when he returned from studies in Egypt. The charges leveled against him mentioned a 2010 poem he recited at a private gathering in Cairo in which he apparently made veiled references to Qatar’s ruling family in a critical fashion.

But the poet’s defenders say his jailing is politically motivated, and stem from a poem in defense of Tunisia’s uprising in which he stated “All of us are Tunisia in the face of these oppressors,” referring to Arab dictators.

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