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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lawyer: Poet pardoned by Emir leaving Qatar

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Mohammed Rashid al-Ajami
Mohammed Rashid al-Ajami

A Qatari poet who was jailed for nearly five years will leave the country now that he has been pardoned by the Emir, his lawyer said.

Speaking to Doha News, former justice minister Najeeb Al Nauimi said he had a conversation with Mohammed Rashid Al-Ajami this week, who confirmed he has been given an unconditional pardon.

“It’s finished, it’s over,” Al Nauimi said.

Mohammed Al-Ajami
Mohammed Al-Ajami

Al-Ajami, who also goes by Ibn Al-Dheeb, was jailed for “inciting to overthrow the regime” and “insulting the Emir,” and convicted in 2012.

He initially faced a life sentence that was reduced to 15 years in jail.

According to Al Nauimi, Al-Ajami is now in Saudi Arabia to meet with supporters, including members of his tribe.

When news broke of his release last week, many said the pardon had come about due to intercession from the chief of the poet’s Al-Ajman tribe, Khalid bin Rakan Al-Ajami.

After visiting people in Saudi Arabia, the poet will settle in Dubai with his family, his lawyer said.

His wife and children had lived in the UAE during his imprisonment and will return there with him, Al Nauimi said. He added:

“I told him, there was a big campaign (for you). And he said to thank everyone for their support.”

International reaction

Qatar officials have not commented publicly on Al-Ajami’s release.

However, news of the poet’s pardon has been welcomed by many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which called the incident a “blight on Qatar’s reputation.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The United Nations has also weighed in.

In a statement, UN Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights Karima Bennoune; on freedom of expression, David Kaye; and on the independence of the judiciary, Mónica Pinto said reparations should be made to Al Ajami for his suffering.

They added:

“We are glad Mr. Al-Ajami could be released and reunited with his family, but the royal pardon does not amount to an acknowledgement of wrong doing and is no guarantee that the rights and freedoms of citizens will be better respected in the future…

Mr. Al-Ajami is not the only person behind bars in Qatar for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

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