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Qatar jails poet for life

A court in Qatar jailed a local poet for life on Thursday for criticizing the emir and inciting revolt.

Qatar emir gaza hamas october 23 2012Enlarge
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (C-R) walks alongside Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh (C-L) during a welcome ceremony at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on October 23, 2012 in the Gaza Strip. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

A court in Qatar jailed a local poet for life on Thursday for criticizing the emir and inciting revolt.

In his poetry, Mohamed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami praised the Arab Spring revolts, which Qatar sponsored, helping to topple four dictators with monetary support, reported Reuters. But the poet also criticized Qatar's own monarch and wrote lines about things like "sheikhs playing on their PlayStations."

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"This is a tremendous miscarriage of justice," said defense lawyer Nagib al-Naimi, who told Reuters of the verdict after a trial behind closed doors was held in the capital Doha.

According to Middle East Online, al-Naimi said he would appeal the verdict next week, which was decided "after six hearings, most of them in secret." The lawyer, a former Qatar justice minister, said the poet should have received a maximum of five years in prison, and that "life in prison only applies in the case of an attempted coup."

"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," the Los Angeles Times reported Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director, Philip Luther, as saying in a statement Thursday.

Ajami has been largely held in solitary confinement and spoke to Reuters in the presence of prison guards and others: "The Emir is a good man," he said. "I think he doesn't know that they have me here for a year, that they have put me in a single room. If he knew, I would be freed."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/121130/qatar-jails-poet-for-life