Last November, a criminal court in Doha, home to the progressive news network Al-Jazeera, sentenced poet Mohammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami to life in prison for his poetry. In January 2011, al-Ajami recited a poem called “Tunisian Jasmine,” expressing support for the uprising there. You can hear him reading “Tunisian Jasmine,” along with a translation, here. He had been charged with “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and “criticizing the Emir,” yet the two-line judgment, handed down in a five-minute hearing, makes no reference to the laws al-Ajami had allegedly broken.

Al-Ajami appealed his sentence, and a verdict is expected in five days, on February 25. Now is the time to speak up. Sign a petition calling for al-Ajami’s release, and remind the Qatari authorities that words are not a crime.