UN human rights agency censures Qatar for jailing poet
Cecile Pouilly, a spokeswoman for the OHCHR, made the remarks at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday.
On November 29, 2012, a state court sentenced Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, to life in prison for a poem in which he had wished for a revolution in the Persian Gulf country.
The court found al-Ajami guilty of “insulting” Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and of “inciting to overthrow the ruling system.”
“We are concerned by the fairness of his trial, including the right to counsel… The initial statement of the defendant was allegedly tampered with to wrongly incriminate him for reciting his poem in public,” Pouilly said.
She referred to some “procedural irregularities” and stated that a number of court sessions had been held behind closed doors.
Pouilly expressed concerns that “al-Ajami has apparently spent many months in solitary confinement and remains there despite a court order.”
She also added that the OHCHR would closely monitor the poet’s case and that a second appeal was scheduled for January 27.
Al-Ajami was taken into custody in November 2011, months after a video of him reciting the poem titled “Tunisian Jasmine” was posted on the internet. He has been held in solitary confinement ever since.
The poem apparently lauded the 2010 Tunisian revolution, which set off the wave of anti-government protests elsewhere in North Africa and across the Middle East.
The poem read, “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive” authorities.
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