Qatar poet serving 15-year jail term pardoned

DOHA, QATAR, David Harding- A Qatari poet, Rashid al-Ajami, has been pardoned and released after serving more than three years of a 15-year prison sentence for insulting the emir, his brother said Wednesday.
"Yes it's true and we have nothing to say but 'Thank God,'" Hassan al-Ajami told AFP.
"He was with members of his family immediately after the emiri pardon was issued. It didn't take minutes for him to be back with his family and children," said an ecstatic Hassan. "Tolerance and forgiveness is an authentic trait of the people and rulers of Qatar."

Hassan's remarks were the first confirmation of the release -- which happened on Tuesday night -- inside Qatar where officials have refused to comment despite his pardon by the emir being widely reported outside the tiny Gulf country.
The poet had also faced a charge of trying to overthrow the regime.
One of his friends also told AFP that Ajami was free and had returned to his family home.
The release apparently came after the intervention of a senior member of his family.
The poet, also known as Ibn Al-Deeb, had been serving his sentence since being imprisoned for life in November 2012.
That was reduced on appeal several months later to 15 years.
He was convicted after reciting a poem in August 2010 while with a group of friends in Cairo, where he was a student at the time.
Ajami was apparently challenged to read a poem that was indirectly critical of then Qatari ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
He was recorded and the video was then uploaded onto YouTube.
Ajami was subsequently arrested by Qatari authorities in November 2011, although his lawyers argued there was no evidence to support the charges.
Ajami's case, which garnered international condemnation over limits to free speech in Qatar, had again threatened to embarrass the 2022 World Cup football host, with demonstrations recently planned outside Qatari embassies in London and Washington.
Rumours of his release began circulating in Qatar on social media on Tuesday night, almost immediately after his release.
There also appeared to be video footage circulating on Twitter confirming he had been released from jail.
It is not known if his pardon by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani came attached with conditions.
Ajami's release was welcomed by Amnesty International, which called it "long overdue".
"It is absurd that he had to spend more than four years behind bars, when his poetry was simply the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs," said Amnesty's James Lynch.
"We hope that the authorities will take the opportunity of this release to review Qatar's criminal justice system and ensure that such flagrant violations of the right to freedom of expression are not repeated."

Thursday, March 17th 2016
David Harding

New comment:

News | Politics | Features | Arts | Entertainment | Society | Sport

At a glance