Qatar court upholds poet’s jail sentence

Mohamed Rashid al-Ajami’s 15-year prison term upheld as final verdict from Gulf state’s Court of Cassation.

Qatari Poet
Ajami, centre, was earlier sentenced to life in prison for insulting the emir of Qatar among other charges [Al Jazeera]

Qatar’s highest court has upheld a 15-year prison sentence for poet Mohamed Rashid al-Ajami.

Sunday’s sentence was the final verdict from the Court of Cassation in Doha.

Ajami who was granted an appeal in February when his jail term was reduced to 15 years, was sentenced to life in prison on November 29, 2011 for insulting the Emir of Qatar and spreading incendiary material.

“The Court of Cassation sentenced Mohammed al-Ajami to 15 years in prison,” confirming the sentence given to the poet by an appeals court in February, al-Ajami’s lawyer Nejib al-Naimi told AFP news agency.

Naimi described Monday’s court ruling as “a political and not a judicial decision,” reported AFP.

Appeal to Emir

Ajami’s sole recourse now is to appeal to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for clemency.

“I hope the emir will grant him an amnesty,” Naimi told the news agency.

Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the publication of his “Jasmine poem,” which criticised governments across the Gulf region in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

“We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite,” he wrote, referring to the North African country which was the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

In a possible 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.”

Throughout his trial, his lawyer insisted that there was no evidence Ajami had publicly recited the poem, a key part of the prosecution case.

Naimi, a former justice minister, had argued that on the charges levelled against him, his client ought to be liable to a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies