Home Page > News Item > Qatar: Poet detained; unfair trial and fears of ill-treatment.

RAN 71/12 1 November 2012

International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee is seriously concerned by the detention of poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami. Al-Ajami was arrested on 16 November 2011. He was then reportedly held incommunicado for months before being allowed family visits, and remains in solitary confinement in Doha’s Central Prison. He is believed to be facing charges of inciting to overthrow the ruling system, which carries the death penalty under article 130 of Qatar’s penal code. His court sessions have been held in secret without any legal representation. PEN is alarmed at reports that he has been ill-treated and tortured , and there are mounting concerns for his well-being in detention. PEN International urges the Qatari authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of poet Al-Ajami.

According to PEN’s information, Al-Ajami was summoned on 16 November 2012 to the Qatari state security to be interrogated about a poem entitled ‘Tunisian Jasmine’, which he wrote in January 2011 and in which he criticized governments across the Gulf, stating that “we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite”. He previously recited a poem that criticised Qatar’s emir, which was posted online in August 2010.

Al-Ajami has appeared before Doha’s Criminal Court on five occasions; his lawyer has not been allowed to attend the sessions and has reportedly had to provide a written defence of his client. On 23 October 2012 a judge postponed Mr Ajami’s trial for the fifth time to 29 November. This session is expected to be public.

Background

Freedom of expression is strictly controlled in Qatar, hampering freedom of the press and contributing to self-censorship among the media. Poets, bloggers, journalists and other civilians cannot speak their minds without fear of facing incommunicado detention, secret trials and other harsh repercussions.

Qatar’s accession to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism in May 2008 further threatened free speech, as its provisions risk criminalizing legitimate activities.

For further background go to:

Amnesty International’s annual report 2012 http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/qatar/report-2012

RECOMMENDED ACTION



Please send appeals:

Expressing serious concern about the about the incommunicado detention of poet Mohammed al-Ajami;
Calling on the Qatari authorities to drop all charges against Mohammed al-Ajami relating solely to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and to ensure that his trial is in accordance with international fair trial standards;
Expressing concerns for al-Ajami’s safety, and seeking assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention, which violates Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
Urging the authorities to allow al-Ajami full access to his family and lawyer, including trial observation, and to any necessary medical treatment.
Urging the authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to immediately and unconditionally release poet Al-Ajami, who is detained solely for the peaceful expression of his opinion.

Send appeals to:

Amir of the State of Qatar
Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
PO Box 923
Doha, State of Qatar
Fax: + 974 4436 1212
Salutation: Your Highness

Minister of the Interior
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalid Al Thani
Ministry of the Interior
PO Box 920
Doha, State of Qatar
Fax: + 974 4444 4945 (keep trying)
Email: info@moi.gov.qa
Salutation: His Excellency

And copies to:
Attorney General
Dr Ali bin Fetais Al Marri
PO Box 705
Doha, State of Qatar
Fax: +974 4484 3211

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Qatar in your country if possible.

***Please contact this office if sending appeals after 29 November 2012***

For further information please contact Ghias Aljundi at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: ghias.aljundi@pen-international.org