A poet jailed for a verse considered offensive to Qatar’s ruler harshly denounced the nation’s legal proceedings on Monday after an appeal court reduced his life sentence to 15 years.
“Unjust,” shouted poet Muhammad ibn Al Dheeb Al Ajami in the guarded Doha courtroom after his appeal to drop the conviction was denied. Al Ajami posted a poem online in 2010 that discussed the traits that are needed for a good leader – which apparently was seen by authorities as a challenge to Qatar’s emir and the ruling family.
He is more widely known, though, for an internet video of him reciting ‘Tunisian Jasmine’, a poem lauding that country’s popular uprising, which touched off rebellions across the Middle East. In the poem, he said “we are all Tunisia in the face of repressive” authorities and criticised governments that restrict freedoms, calling them “thieves”.
Muhammad ibn Al Dheeb Al Ajami
However, Al Ajami can still appeal to a higher court.
“This sentence will not stand,” said his brother, Hasan.
“When you strip away everything, this is just a case about power and pressure.”
Earlier this month, a Kuwait court sentenced three former opposition lawmakers to three years hard labour for insulting the country’s ruler during speeches made at political rallies. In January, a Kuwait blogger
and online journalists received two-year sentences in back-to-back convictions for posts deemed “insulting” to the emir.