Qatar has pardoned an imprisoned poet who spent nearly five years in jail for allegedly insulting the Gulf state's former emir.

Mohammed Rashid al-Ajami was sentenced to life in prison on November 29, 2011, for insulting the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and spreading incendiary material.

He was arrested in 2011 after the publication of his "Jasmine poem", which was critical of governments across the Gulf region following the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

In 2013, Ajami was granted an appeal after his jail term was reduced to 15 years, but his sentence was upheld by Qatar's highest court. His only recourse was to appeal to Qatar's current emir for clemency.

According to Abdullah al-Athbah, editor-in-chief of the Doha-based Al Arab newspaper, Ajami, received a pardon from Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Tuesday.

The United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that Ajami had been released.

Rights groups hailed his release, with London-based Amnesty International calling it "long overdue good news". 

 Qatari poet's life sentence cut to 15 years

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies