A poet will face life in prison in Qatar after penning verses that state officials deemed insulting to the nation's emir and an incitement to topple the government, his attorney told news agencies Thursday.
Rights activists say Mohammed Ajami was arrested over his “Jasmine Poem,” which skewered governments across the region, at one point declaring, “We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite.” He had previously recited a poem criticizing the emir, according to free speech groups.
His attorney Najib Nuaimi told the Associated Press that a state security court sentenced Ajami to life in prison Thursday. The stiff sentence infuriated Amnesty International and other human rights groups, which argued Qatar has cheered “Arab Spring” uprisings elsewhere while hypocritically cracking down on criticism of its government at home.
“It is deplorable that Qatar, which likes to paint itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, is indulging in what appears to be such a flagrant abuse of that right,” Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director, Philip Luther, said in a statement Thursday.