Qatari Poet Sentenced to Life for Insulting Emir
Qatari poet Mohamed Bin Rashid al-Deeb has been sentenced to life in prison for composing a poem last year deemed insulting to the country’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Al-Ajami faced charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and was not present in the court. He has been jailed in solitary confinement for nearly a year. Amnesty International and other rights groups have decried al-Ajami’s detention leading up to the trial, also calling for his immediate and unconditional release. “Mohammed al-Ajami has now spent almost a year behind bars in solitary confinement apparently solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. If that is the case, he would be considered a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and conditionally,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director.
Meanwhile, Colum Lynch writes, “Two years after the start of the Arab Spring … Qatar’s carefully cultivated reputation as a U.S. partner — and as a neutral broker in the region — is increasingly muddled. With billions of dollars in natural gas and oil revenue, it is bankrolling a new generation of Islamists across the Middle East, raising questions about its vision for the region and whether some of its policies are in direct conflict with U.S. interests.”