|Qatari poet, Mohammed Ibn Al-Dheeb Al-Ajami’s life sentence has been reduced to 15 years
Mohammed Ibn Al-Dheeb Al-Ajami has had his life sentence for insulting Qatar’s ruler and inciting others to overthrow the government reduced to 15 year. The Qatari poet who was sentenced to life in prison last year has had his sentence reduced to 15 years by an appeals court.
In November 2012, Mohammed Ibn Al-Dheeb Al-Ajami was sentenced to life in prison for insulting the Emir of Qatar and inciting the overthrow of the government.
The poet’s lawyer, Mohammed Nejib al-Naimi said: “My client was sentenced today to 15 years in prison,” explaining that the case will now be appealed at the court of cassation for a final decision.
The lawyer contended that “the appeals court was apparently politicised and does not differ much from the court of first instance.”
The trial has been criticised by rights groups around the world, and Al-Ajami has insisted that the poem in question was recited in his home and not in a public place.
Naimi, a former Qatari justice minister, argued that according to the charges against his client he was liable to a maximum of five years in jail.
Chief prosecutor and attorney general, Ali bin Fetais Al-Marri reportedly said that he will attempt to have the original sentence restored.
“We accept the ruling, however we as public prosecution, will resort to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgement, hoping to restore it as was, a life term,” he told Al Jazeera English, adding “however, in any case, we will honour the say of the court.”
According to reports, Al-Ajami was extremely vocal as he was led from the court, complaining about the unfairness of the decision.
Human rights groups angered
During their launch of the World Report 2013 in Doha, representatives of Human Rights Watch criticised the initial sentence handed down to Al-Ajami.
“Ibn al-Dheeb had recited poems that insulted Qatar’s rulers and praised the uprising in Tunisia, but in neither case had he gone beyond his legitimate right to free expression. This sentence undermines Qatar’s attempts to present itself as a free speech haven,” said HRW.
Amnesty International has said that Ajami, who was arrested in November 2011, is accused of incitement “to overthrow the ruling system” and “insulting the emir” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Following the initial sentence, the Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, Phillip Luther said: “It is deplorable that Qatar, which likes to paint itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, is induging in what appears to be such a flagrant abuse of that right.”
“Lack of transparency”
Doha Centre for Media Freedom’s director, Jan Keulen gave the following statement following the decision:
“Until now the local Qatari media have, by and large, refrained from reporting on the case of Qatari poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami. The circumstances surrounding this case remain unclear and unexplained. We note that the court has not given any explanation of the 15-years sentence handed to Al-Ajami on Monday. The general public in Qatar, Qatari nationals and non-nationals alike, remain deprived of their right to be fully informed.
We are concerned about the effects this harsh sentence and lack of transparency may have on the right of free expression and hence media freedom in Qatar.”
Source: AFP, AJE
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