Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Qatar: Poet’s Conviction Violates Free Expression

Sentence at Odds with Ruler’s Support for Uprisings Elsewhere

"(Beirut) – A Qatari court’s life sentence for the poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami after a grossly unfair trial flagrantly violates the right to free expression. Putting Ibn al-Deeb on trial badly undermined Qatar's efforts to present itself as a free speech haven. 

The court’s two-line written judgment on November 29, 2012, makes no reference to any law that Ibn al-Dheeb is alleged to have broken, although the prosecution claimed during the five-minute hearing that he had called for a revolution in Qatar. Ibn al-Dheeb was not in court and according to his lawyer the judge prevented him from entering any defense or responding to the prosecution’s claims. In a January 2011 poem titled “Tunisian Jasmine,”  Ibn al-Dheeb expressed support for the uprising there. He previously had recited poems that included passages disparaging senior members of Qatar’s ruling family. 

Qatar, after all its posturing as a supporter of freedom, turns out to be determined to keep its citizens quiet,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Ibn al-Dheeb’s alleged mockery of Qatar’s rulers can hardly compare to the mockery this judgment makes of the country’s posture as a regional center for media freedom.”......"

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