Qatari Poet’s Sentence Reduced
A three-judge panel of Qatar’s court of appeal unanimously decided today to reduce poet Mohammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami’s life sentence to 15 years in prison for his poetry. This may seem like progress, but a prison term for poetry is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, and PEN is continuing to press for al-Ajami’s immediate and unconditional release.
It is still unclear exactly why al-Ajami was convicted—the original judgment, handed down last November, makes no reference to the laws the poet had allegedly broken—but he’s been accused of inciting the overthrow of the government. The case file against al-Ajami reportedly included responses from three state poets concluding that one of his poems, which he had recited and was recorded and put online, was an indirect challenge to authorities. As he was led away from the courthouse, al-Ajami, who was not able to present a defense in the original trial, shouted “There is no law for this.”
Al-Ajami will now appeal to the Court of Cassation, Qatar’s supreme court, which will make a ruling within the next 30 days. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to add your name to this petition. And PEN members, stand by for an action later this week.