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Qatari poet's life sentence reduced to 15 years

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International continues to protest the detention of poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, whose life sentence for a critical poem was reduced to fifteen years on 25 February 2013.

A final ruling by the Supreme Court is expected within 30 days. PEN International considers Al-Ajami to be convicted in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. According to PEN's information, Al-Ajami was sentenced to life imprisonment on 29 November 2012 on charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and “criticising the ruler” in a poem.

The charges stem from a poem entitled Tunisian Jasmine which he wrote in January 2011, during the wave of protests throughout the Arab world that began in December 2010.

He was arrested on 16 November 2011, after responding to summons, and was detained incommunicado for several months. His trial, which did not meet international standards of fairness, was repeatedly postponed. Al-Ajami is detained in Doha's Central Prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest.

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