Qatar: Release Poet Jailed for Exercising Right to Free Expression
On 20 October 2013, the Cassation Court in Doha upheld the 15-year prison sentence confirmed by the court of appeal that was rendered in January 2013 against Qatari poet Mohamed Al-Ajami (also known as Mohamed Ibn Al-Dib).
Mohamed Al-Ajami has been detained since 2011 simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression – charged for "inciting to overthrow the regime" and "insulting the Emir," both overly broad charges. In addition, his trial was permeated with irregularities, according to his lawyer Najeeb Al-Nuaimi.
In a tribute to the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia, Al-Ajami criticized Arab governments, describing them as being authoritarian. Alkarama fails to see why such statements should warrant any criminal penalty and even less a 15-year prison sentence.
In fact, Qatar is under the international obligation to respect the freedom of expression of all its inhabitants, and has acted contrary to these obligations in trying and sentencing Al-Ajami.
Freedom of expression had been flagged as an area of concern in Qatar, with particular mention made of Al-Ajami's situation in its submission to the review of the country during its second UPR in August 2013. At the same time, Alkarama raised concerns about fair trials norms, particularly of the lack of guarantee of the tenure of judges. These concerns were also shared with the Committee against Torture in October last year, during its review of Qatar.
Alkarama condems ongoing unlawful restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and reiterates its call for the immediate release of Mohamed Al-Ajami, calling on the Qatari authorities to repeal criminal laws that are arbitrarily used to prosecute those who exercise their rights under international law. Finally, fair trials must be guaranteed for all.
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