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Briefing notes on Qatar

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
Location: Geneva
Date: 22 October 2013

We are seriously concerned about the decision taken by Qatar’s highest court on October 20 to uphold a 15-year prison sentence for Mohammed al Ajami (also known as Ibn al Dheeb), a well-known Qatari poet. This sentence is clearly disproportionate.

Mr. Mohammed al Ajami was initially sentenced to life in prison on 29 November 2012 for a poem that was considered to be encouraging the overthrow of the ruling system of the country and insulting to the nation’s symbols. His sentence was reduced to 15 years last February during a second appeal. After Sunday’s verdict from the Court of Cassation, Mr. al Ajami’s only recourse is to appeal for clemency to the Emir of Qatar.

Last January, we already publicly expressed our concerns about the harsh sentencing, the fairness of his trial and about the many months Mr. al Ajami had spent in solitary confinement.

We call for the respect of Mr. al Ajami’s right to freedom of expression and for his immediate release.

ENDS

For further information and media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 or +41 79 618 3430 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )

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