Qatar Upholds 15-year Sentence for Poet Muhammad al-Ajami

Bad news Monday from Qatar’s Court of Cassation: Poet Mohamed al-Ajami’s 15-year prison term was upheld as final.

al-ajamiAl-Ajami’s lawyer, Najib al-Naimi,  told media outlets that al-Ajami’s only remaining option was to appeal to the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, for clemency.

Al-Naimi told AFP that “I hope the emir will grant him an amnesty.” Reuters reported that the court’s decision had been reached in less than three hours. Al-Ajami was originally jailed for life last year, but in a February appeal, the sentence was reduced to 15 years.

Reuters also reported that a cousin of al-Ajami’s said there had been no communication with the new Emir about al-Ajami’s case. “But the Emir knows of the case for sure and has the ability to pardon anyone of Qatar’s sons.”

According to al-Naimi, the poet has been held in solitary confinement for nearly two years.

“There is no justice,” al-Naimi told Doha News. “Our judicial system cannot be trusted.”

Al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the YouTube publication of his “Tunisian Jasmine,” a poem that praised Arab uprisings and criticised governments across the region. The case against him was ostensibly about a 2010 poem that criticized the emir, although many believe authorities are punishing al-Ajami for his Jasmine poem.

Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s free translation of the Jasime Poem, which was read at an event in support of the poet in San Francisco:

Jasmine Revolution Poem

By Mohammad al-Ajami Ibn al-Dhib

Prime Minister, Mohamed al-Ghannouchi:
If we measured your might
it wouldn’t hold a candle
to a constitution.
We shed no tears for Ben Ali,
nor any for his reign.
It was nothing more than a moment
in time for us,
and dictatorial,
a system of oppression,
an era of autocracy.
Tunisia declared the people’s revolt:
When we lay blame
only the base and vile suffer from it;
and when we praise
we do so with all our hearts.
A revolution was kindled with the blood of the people:
their glory had worn away,
the glory of every living soul.
So, rebel, tell them,
tell them in a shrouded voice, a voice from the grave:
tell them that tragedies precede all victories.
A warning to the country whose ruler is ignorant,
whose ruler deems that power
comes from the American army.
A warning to the country
whose people starve
while the regime boasts of its prosperity.
A warning to the country whose citizens sleep:
one moment you have your rights,
the next they’re taken from you.
A warning to the system—inherited—of oppression.
How long have all of you been slaves
to one man’s selfish predilections?
How long will the people remain
ignorant of their own strength,
while a despot makes decrees and appointments,
the will of the people all but forgotten?
Why is it that a ruler’s decisions are carried out?
They’ll come back to haunt him
in a country willing
to rid itself of coercion.
Let him know, he
who pleases only himself, and does nothing
but vex his own people; let him know
that tomorrow
someone else will be seated on that throne,
someone who knows the nation’s not his own,
nor the property of his children.
It belongs to the people, and its glories
are the glories of the people.
They gave their reply, and their voice was one,
and their fate, too, was one.
All of us are Tunisia
in the face of these oppressors.
The Arab regimes and those who rule them
are all, without exception,
without a single exception,
shameful, thieves.
This question that keeps you up at night—
its answer won’t be found
on any of the official channels…
Why, why do these regimes
import everything from the West—
everything but the rule of law, that is,
and everything but freedom?

You can listen to 2010 poem that got al-Ajami in trouble here:


Doha News: Supreme court rules against Qatari poet, upholding 15-year jail term

AFP: Qatar upholds 15-year sentence against maverick poet

BBC: Qatar court upholds poet Mohammed al-Ajami’s sentence

Reuters: Qatari poet sentenced to 15 years in prison for insulting emir


  1. Hello !
    I seem to have trouble opening your links lately and often only get a picture instead of the audio file.
    I can’t listen for example to Al Ajami’s poem…
    Does anyone else have the same problem ?
    Any suggestion ?
    Shukran !

    1. Oh boy, I am really not technologically inclined; I can only say that it works on my end. Others?

    2. Working fine on my end.

      This story is really disappointing. They should’ve upheld the life sentence (please note the sarcasm).

  2. I have worked in Qatar, and honestly the state of the rule of law does not seem to be this bad on the surface, very disappointing, i do not know if punishing someone for a crime of thought openly is better then framing another more “acceptable” crime, they do not bother doing that anymore.
    There is a very long road ahead of us (all of us) until we reach a state where the law really protects freedom of thought, sad.
    Regards from Egypt.

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