Citing freedom of expression, UN calls for release of Qatari poet given 15-year sentence

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: OHCHR

22 October 2013 – The United Nations human rights office today called for the immediate release of a well-known Qatari poet who it says was harshly sentenced for a poem considered to be encouraging the overthrow of the ruling system of the country.

Mohammed al Ajami – also known as Ibn al Dheeb – was initially sentenced to life in prison on 29 November 2012 for the poem, which was also considered insulting to the nation’s symbols, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

His sentence was reduced to 15 years last February during a second appeal. On 20 October, Qatar’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, decided to uphold the 15-year sentence. Mr. al Ajami’s only recourse now is to appeal for clemency to the Emir of Qatar.

“This sentence is clearly disproportionate,” OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told reporters in Geneva, voicing serious concern about the decision taken by the court this week.

“Last January, we already publicly expressed our concerns about the harsh sentencing, the fairness of his trial and about the many months Mr. al Ajami had spent in solitary confinement,” she added.

“We call for the respect of Mr. al Ajami’s right to freedom of expression and for his immediate release.”


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UN human rights office concerned about Qatari poet sentenced to life in prison

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