Qatari poet Mohammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami has reportedly been sentenced to life in prison in a local court this morning.
It remains unclear what Al-Ajami was convicted of, but he was arrested in Doha last November and eventually charged with “inciting to overthrow the regime” and “insulting the Emir.”
Amnesty International, which confirmed this morning’s ruling to Doha News, said Al-Ajami has one week to submit his appeal.
“This is sending shockwaves across the Gulf region,” Amnesty researcher Dina El-Mamoun said. “Not just Qatar but beyond Qatar, among activists who feel there is sort of less and less space for them.”
On Twitter, hundreds have denounced the verdict under the hashtag #الحرية_لشاعر_محمد_بن_الذيب (freedom for poet Mohammed Ibn Al-Dheeb), questioning Qatar’s commitment to free speech after its support of so many Arab Spring revolutions.
Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth attributed the life sentence to Al-Ajami’s widely distributed Jasmine Poem, which criticized governments across the Gulf, asserting that “we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite.”
#Qatar sentences poet al-Ajami today to life in prison for poem “insulting” emir. Here’s background: trib.al/euSihpo via @zaidbenjamin
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) November 29, 2012
What appears to be a court document dated Nov. 29 (today) with Al-Ajami’s name and the life sentence is also being circulated online.
In addition to rattling activists in the region, the decision is sure to draw fire from international human rights groups, who have over the past few months stepped up calls for the poet’s release.
According to Amnesty, Al-Ajami’s trials were “marred by irregularities, with court sessions held in secret. His lawyer reportedly had to provide a written defense of his client after being barred from attending one of the court sessions.”
We’ll have more as the story develops.
Credit: Photo by Lucas