Qatar: Appeals Court Should drop all charges against Qatari Poet Al-Ajami

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses deep concern over the sentencing of Qatari poet Mohamad Ibn al-Deeb Al-Ajami to life imprisonment following a trial marred by irregularities. Al-Ajami, sentenced on 29 November 2012, has been granted leave to appeal. The Court of Appeals will commence a review of the case on 27 January 2013.

Al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 and charged with “attempt to overthrow the government of Qatar” under Article 130 of Qatar’s penal code. The Court of First Instance sentenced Al-Ajami to life imprisonment after a hearing lasting only six days. A request by his lawyers for his release on bail pending trial was rejected.

Al-Ajami was arrested after reportedly calling for a revolution in the country and criticizing the Emir of Qatar and other members of the ruling family. FIDH calls on the Qatari authorities to respect its obligations under article 30 of the Arab Charter which stipulates that freedom of thought, conscience and opinion is guaranteed to everyone.

All charges against Al-Ajami should be dropped. He has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression as protected by international and regional human rights instruments declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Earlier this month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern over the fairness of Al-Ajami’s trial. FIDH calls upon the Qatari authorities to ensure that due process and the rights of the defense are guaranteed before the Court of Appeal.

FIDH further recalls Qatar’s obligations under the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which provides under Article 16 stipulates that the “accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a final judgment rendered according to law and, in the course of the investigation and trial, he shall enjoy the the minimum guarantees” stipulated in the article.

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