Qatar emir pardons poet Muhammad Al Ajami
Doha // A Qatari poet has been pardoned and released after serving more than three years of a 15-year prison sentence for insulting the emir, a family member said on Wednesday.
Muhammad Rashid Al Ajami was jailed in 2012 for insulting the emir and trying to overthrow the regime.
“Yes it’s true and we have nothing to say but ‘Thank God’,” the family member of Ajami said, asking not to be named.
It was the first confirmation of his release inside Qatar where officials have refused to comment, despite his pardon by the emir being widely reported outside the emirate.
A friend of Ajami’s also said he had returned to his family home. His release apparently came after the intervention of a senior member of his family.
The poet, also known as Ibn Al Deeb, was imprisoned for life in November 2012 but the sentence was reduced on appeal 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 on to YouTube.
Ajami was arrested by Qatari authorities in November 2011, although his lawyers argued there was no evidence to support the charges.
Rumours of his release began circulating in Qatar on social media on Tuesday night.
It is not known if his pardon by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani came attached with conditions.
* Agence France-Presse
Published: March 16, 2016 04:00 AM